State of the Debate

Debate: Not supposed to call them ‘hate crimes’ any more. But go after them anyway...

First Published      Last Updated Jan 19 2017 10:15 am

Getting states to pass laws cracking down on hate crimes can be difficult because the term comes with so much baggage.

It can be seen as government action criminalizing unpopular thought. Or a way to get back at traditional thinkers for their long-standing opposition to such things as marriage equality.

The goal, at least among those doing the work in Utah, was never to punish thought. It was to take actions that have always been crimes — assault, arson, vandalism — and give prosecutors a chance to convince a court that particular acts deserve a higher level of punishment because the victim was singled out for his or her gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, religion, etc., etc.

Such crimes are clearly intended to not only hurt the immediate victim but also to send a message to all others of that sort that they are unwelcome and may be next.

The proper word for that, I always thought, was terrorism. But that name hasn't caught on.

So Utah state Sen. Daniel Thatcher has had to come up with a suitably legalistic new handle for his new attempt at such legislation. Its "Victim Selection Penalty Enhancements"— aka Senate Bill 72 — that will be argued about in the session of the Utah Legislature that begins Monday.

The bill may draw some flak from some conservatives who mostly worry, with little evidence, that somebody's religious freedom may be under threat around here. They will argue that, for every good thing done to extend equal rights for all, Utah must throw come kind of bone to those who have basically lost this battle in the culture wars.

Bill to crack down on targeted attacks needs no 'balance' — Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

"No person's liberty, religious or otherwise, is threatened by the latest attempt to repeal Utah's flawed hate-crimes law and replace it with a statute that could actually be enforced.

"Unless, of course, someone wants to argue that some concept of liberty, religious or otherwise, includes a 'right' to beat people bloody for the sin of being different.

"Not that anyone is arguing that. ..."

Bill emerges to replace Utah's unenforceable hate-crimes law — Jennifer Dobner | The Salt Lake Tribune

"A West Valley City senator is trying to put a new spin on an old problem, proposing a bill to give Utah a workable hate-crimes law by placing a greater emphasis on criminal, not social, justice.

"But please, asks Republican Sen. Daniel Thatcher, don't call his bill hate-crimes legislation.

" 'This is not hate crimes,' Thatcher said. 'You can't prove hate. But you know what you can prove? That someone selected a victim. You can prove they chose them.' ..."

If you want to look it up, though, you still google the words "hate crime."


— Need for a hate crimes bill — Dee Rowland and Nancy Haanstad | For The Deseret News

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