SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Sponsors of competing hate-crimes bills found common ground during a debate and raised the possibility of a compromise.
Sen. James Evans, R-Rose Park, and Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake, take different approaches in their bills to punish hate crimes.
Litvack's HB68 lists specific groups that would be protected under the law, while Evans' SB41 does not.
Evans has said his bill is based on a Georgia law, but that law specifically mentions crimes based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, ethnicity, gender, disability or sexual orientation. That is the same list that appears in Litvack's bill.
Litvack asked Evans Tuesday night whether that was the language he had intended for his bill.
Evans said that it was, as long as it also included the words "not to exclude any other groups," which also appears in the Georgia law.
"Philosophically, we're closer than we ever have been," Litvack said following the debate. "There's a conversation to be had. Where that conversation will go, I don't know."
"As long as we don't exclude any groups, then yes, we have something to talk about," Evans said.
The outcome drew applause from the 100 or so people in the Salt Lake County Council chambers.
Also attending was Jonathan Bernstein, director of the Anti-Defamation League's Central Pacific Region office in San Francisco.
"What I'll be doing tomorrow is calling lawyers and judges I know around the country to see if it's an approach that will work," said Bernstein, who has helped write hate crimes laws across the country. "It was an interesting ending."
Sponsors of the hate-crimes bills that have been voted down in the Utah Legislature over the years have said the objection has been over protecting homosexuals.
Members of the gay and lesbian community packed the council chambers Tuesday and asked Evans specifically if he had intended to include them. "Yes," said Evans.
He said his position on the hate crimes issue has been much misunderstood and maligned. "I simply don't think it's fruitful for us to continue to go down the path of continuing to list group classification when we have the opportunity to treat everyone equally," he said.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)