Utah has never had laws that exact correct punishment for people who commit hate crimes and, in fact, the law pertaining to hate crimes were so weak that it was never once used to successfully persecute a hate crime. However, this has been changed after Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill that strengthens the hate crime law in Utah, reports KUER.
Luis Lopez is a Utah resident who was a victim of a brutal hate crime last fall in which he was struck repeatedly with a metal pipe in his family’s tire shop in Salt Lake City. The reason? Because Lopez is Mexican. The assailant, Alan Dale Covington, allegedly yelled “kill Mexicans” before hitting Lopez and his father. While Covington was charged with three federal hate crimes, under the existing law at the time, the charges were not brought under state law.
Scary stuff! Utah lawmakers recognize that signing the bill won’t stop hate crimes in the state, but Governor Herbert referred to the law as a “new beginning.” This law can potentially deter people from committing hate crimes due to the severity of the punishment that will endure. While not the point and probably what the lawmakers were referring to, reducing hate crimes one way or another is undeniably a good thing.
Governor Herbert also said that this law will present Utahns with an opportunity to spread compassion, love, mutual respect, and civility. Representative Sandra Hollins, a Democrat from Salt Lake City, said that under this law, Utahns will be held accountable if their “hateful thoughts become action.” I think the law will do just that – judges will now be able to strengthen penalties for people who have been convicted of committing based on immutable characteristics such as skin color, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and other factors.
While I don’t live in Utah, I am happy for the residents who can finally get the justice that they deserve because hate crimes are a special kind of evil as they are fueled purely by hatred of people who are seen as “different.” As far as I am aware, only a minority of states have hate crime laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity. It is my hope that more states adopt those policies, as everyone deserves to live freely and express themselves in any way that they want as long as they’re not hurting others.