SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's capital city on Tuesday joined five other Utah cities and one county to urge the Utah Legislature to strengthen laws to address crimes that target people because of their race, religion or sexual orientation.
The City Council and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski approved a resolution Tuesday night to urge Utah lawmakers to beef up the law.
"When a criminal deliberately targets a victim because of ancestry, disability, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation to deprive them of their unalienable right to life, liberty, property or to pursue happiness, other members of that community are deeply affected as is society as a whole," the city's resolution stated.
"Stronger tools to address crime in which the offender targets victims can assist law enforcement in building better relationships and trust with communities, and more appropriately punish the people who commit these vicious acts," the statement also said.
Salt Lake City joined West Jordan, South Salt Lake, Beaver County, Moab and Midvale in the movement to support a bill Sen. Daniel Thatcher is sponsoring in the 2018 session that would give law enforcement stronger tools to address crimes that target specific groups.
It remains to be seen whether Utah lawmakers will support Thatcher's legislation. It won't be his first attempt to ensure protections for LGBT and other groups. Last year, legislative leaders didn't allow Thatcher's bill a public hearing. He introduced the measure after lawmakers in 2016 voted down another Republican senator’s controversial hate crimes bill.
Troy Williams, executive director of the Equality Utah, which advocates for LGBT rights, said it was "so encouraging" to see Salt Lake City join the effort.
"There is widespread support throughout the state to consider this legislation because it protects and includes everybody," Williams said. "We all have a sexual orientation. We all have a gender identity. We all have a race. Many of us belong to communities of faith. And this legislation truly strikes a balance to make sure all Utahns are protected when they are targeted for who they are.
Williams noted that in the past 20 years, not one prosecution has come from Utah's current statute. "It's broken. It's not working. It is not bringing justice to victims," he said.
While it's uncertain whether lawmakers will be receptive to Thatcher's bill, Williams said, "We have to persuade them to take up this issue, and we're going to keep coming back every year until it's passed."
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