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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A bid to strengthen Utah's hate-crimes law is passing its first vote state Senate following an occasionally emotional debate over the long-stalled idea.
The Monday vote advances the legislation that would allow longer sentences for people convicted of targeting someone because of their sexual orientation, race, religion or other factors.
Supporters say it would protect civil rights and send an important message that violence targeting a particular group of people won't be tolerated.
Opponents, though, worry the measure goes too far in singling out certain groups for protections and stiffer penalties wouldn't solve the problem.
Utah's current hate-crime law doesn't protect specific groups and prosecutors have said it's essentially unusable.
The measure needs another Senate vote, and if it passes would go to the Utah House of Representatives.
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