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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A sponsor of Utah's latest failed hate-crime bill hopes Sen. Orrin Hatch's endorsement of a federal version could boost chances for a Utah bill next session.
"I think the greatest importance is the precedence it sets that one of our senators from Utah is supporting a hate-crime bill, especially because it includes sexual orientation and gender," said Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City.
Hatch announced last week his support for Sen. Edward Kennedy's legislation to extend federal hate-crime status to sexual orientation, gender and disability. The bill also provides state grants to help law enforcement investigate and prosecute hate crimes covered under state laws.
The bill is awaiting consideration in Hatch's Judiciary Committee, and he said he would get the bill through committee by September.
He endorsed the bill's inclusion of sexual orientation.
Rep. Jim Ferrin, R-Orem, who co-sponsored House Bill 85 with Litvack, said some legislators suggested they could support the bill if it left out sexual orientation.
Ferrin said he will never support gay marriage or accept the homosexual lifestyle, but he "cannot and will not say it's OK to select them as victims of crimes."
The Utah bill would have allowed prosecutors to ratchet up criminal penalties one level if they could prove a crime was motivated by the victim's race, color, disability, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, age or gender.
Ferrin said he's hopeful Hatch's endorsement of the federal bill helps bring Utah legislators around.
Paul Murphy, spokesman for the Utah attorney general's office, said he is also heartened by Hatch's support of such legislation.
The attorney general's office has pushed for a more precise law since the Utah courts have ruled that the state's current hate crime law is too vague.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)