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Hate-Crime Legislation in Utah Advances After Including Conservatives

Hate Crime Legislation Advances in Conservative Utah

The historic bill has advanced in Utah, but only after lawmakers including those targeted for political views as a protected class alongside LGBTQ people.

Republicans in Utah finally approved legislation on Tuesday that will empower prosecutors to enforce hate-crime laws.

The law will allow the government to hold criminals responsible for targeting marginalized communities. While this includes attacks motivated by victims' sexual orientation or gender identity -- it also identifies those targeted for their right-wing views as a protected class.

Gov. Gary Herbert signaled he will sign a bill "providing critical protections" to marginalized communities targeted with crimes. "I look forward to it landing on my desk and signing it into law," the elected official said on Twitter.

The bill only passed in the state House after including those targeted for "political expression," according to KSL-TV. A lawmaker who gutted legislation earlier this year aimed at banning conversion therapy said it was important people like her be included.

"I have had hateful things said about me," said state Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, a Republican. "I have experienced death threats over the last few days. I have had people tell me, 'How dare you play the victim card.' And I ask you, is not having somebody threaten you making you a victim?"

Democratic Rep. Angela Romero disagreed with including political protections. "Many of us have received threats and people have condemned us for issues that we believe in, but it's very very different than because of who you are as a person," she said.

Still, the provision made it into the law.

That wasn't enough to sway all conservatives opposed to the hate crime legislation. "It's a really dangerous thing when we start putting tools in the hands of prosecutors who clearly have no accountability to the people," said state Rep. Phil Lyman, a Republican.

The legislation was passed by the House with an overwhelming margin, 64-9. The bill now heads to the Utah Senate, where it is expected to pass.

State Sen. Daniel Thatcher, a Republican who has championed the legislation through the process, said changes added to the bill ultimately helped it pick up votes. Without sponsors showing a willingness to work with critics, the legislation would not have gone anywhere.

Just last month, he told The Salt Lake Tribunethe bill only had a 50-50 chance at passage. Now, he expects the bill to pass. He credited Herbert's support in a statement to the press.

"Governor Herbert appreciates the great work of the legislature in passing this important piece of legislation, which will serve as a powerful tool in providing critical protections to marginalized groups and persons," Thatcher said.

Equality Utah executive director Troy Williams told the Tribune he was excited to see any version of the bill advance.

"It was incredibly moving to have a body of conservative elected lawmakers vote for protections for LGBTQ individuals," he said.

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