By Lauren Hanson
SALT LAKE CITY — A group of members from different faiths and ethnicities gathered together in support of a hate crime bill on Thursday, Feb. 18.
Lawmakers in favor of SB107 held a press conference at the Capitol in response to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ press release given the night before.
The Church stated that it would not support the changes that had been made to the bill.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Stephan R. Urquhart, R-St. George, said that it is only a matter of time when full LGTB rights will be recognized in Utah.
“I invite the Mormon church to actually talk with me about my legislation to learn more about what it does,” Urquhart said.
He explained that in Utah, there is no legal distinction between writing a smiley-face or a swastika on a synagogue, or burning a pile of leaves or burning a cross in African American’s lawn. Similarly, he said there is no legal clarification between burning down a woodshed or a Mormon Chapel.
Urquhart, a member of the LDS church, said that his bill would have treated these attacks as crimes and as threats towards specific groups. “Such protection will not be permitted now since the press release,” he said.
Sim Gill, the Salt Lake County district attorney, said that if there is a specific issue that is troubling within the context of the bill, then it should discussed and taken to the floor. “If it is an issue with a particular group, then let’s be open and honest about it,” he said.
Gill believes that protection against hate crimes should not have to wait another year, and that he was hopeful that the bill would achieve success during this year’s legislative session.
As part of interfaith month, Rev. Curtis Price, of the first Baptist Church in Salt Lake, said that this topic has been discussed among other religious entities in Utah.
He said that their recent discussions have rallied around race relations, and the particular backlash towards the Muslim community.
Price believes that religious leaders in Utah should be heralding this bill as a defender of religious liberty.
Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, said that he doesn’t want recent occurrences with the legislative progress of SB107 to undo the gains they have already made.
Williams said that they have had an ongoing discussion with the LDS Church about this issue, but that they would keep trying to push hate crime protection for everyone.