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New hate crimes law signed in Utah

(Photo: Paul Nelson)

UTAH STATE CAPITOL – Hugs and loud applause in the state capitol today as Governor Gary Herbert signs new hate crimes law, which will give attorneys better tools to prosecute these kinds of crimes. Supporters of the bill say the bill took a long time to pass, but it was worth the effort.

Prosecutors like Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes have been saying for a long time that the state’s old hate crimes laws were not good enough.  Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams says the laws were just too vague.

“That made the statute largely unenforceable.  In the 20 years we’ve had some version of a hate crimes law, there have been zero prosecutions,” he says.

There was a celebratory mood inside the Capitol Rotunda as Governor Gary Herbert held up SB 103 after signing it.  He says hate crime laws are things he wish he didn’t have to think about.

“We, in fact, not only need to change the law, but we need a change of heart,” Herbert says.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle are calling this bill a victory.  Representative Patrice Arent says this bill was able to open up a completely different kind of discussion, and political rivals did something they normally don’t… they listened.

Arent says, “Some who were planning to vote against SB 103 ultimately decided to vote with the vast majority in favor of this legislation.”