A Utah lawmaker says the violence fueled by a white supremacist march in Virginia last month should make clear the need for stiffer penalties for hate crimes in the state.
State Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley, has tried for two sessions to strengthen Utah’s sentencing for crimes committed with the intent of harming a victim based on his or her race, religion or sexuality.
He says after the events of Charlottesville last month, he’s going to try again next year.
“You would think Charlottesville has to change things,” says Thatcher. “The reality is when I’m having conversations in hallways, Charlottesville is going to have to come up.”
White supremacists held a large demonstration that led to counter-protests and violence. One man plowed his car into a group of demonstrators, killing a woman.
Utah’s current statutes only allows hate crimes to be attached to misdemeanor crimes. It’s also unclear who’s rights will be protected.
“When you’ve got Christian monuments being destroyed, when you have Muslim mosques being burned to the ground, when you have bomb threats coming in to Jewish schools, synagogues and community centers, that’s pretty devastating to that community,” he said.
Thatcher says the current climate in the U.S. means that Utah needs to address the issue during their next session beginning in January. He believes the bill could gain enough support this time to pass.