Utah State Senator Daniel Thatcher has been proposing the Victim Targeting Penalty bill for years now.
This bill would modify the Utah Criminal Code that neglects to punish criminal offenses against individuals selected strictly because of certain personal attributes. Hate crimes have become a rising epidemic, and without a law to punish offenders, these offenses continue to increase.
Thatcher says many opposers of the bill think it may punish thoughts and feelings as well as infringe on an individual's first amendment right. In order to not impose, the crime has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt that the victim was deliberately selected based on their protected class. And if the criminal does not admit that they deliberately selected them based on their protected class, and without any evidence, it can be nearly impossible to prove.
“I'm going to keep running this sucker till it passes, because we need it, and it’s the right thing to do," Thatcher said. "Some people have said, ‘Is it really that big a deal? It only happens two or three times a year.’ You know what though, if it’s your community, if it’s your Jewish synagogue that’s been vandalized, if you’re a member of the hispanic community, I guarantee once was enough.”
Senator Thatcher said this year has been different from years past because people have asked him to put certain things in the bill. He has been adding and taking out various aspects of the bill that may ultimately help legislatures feel more comfortable creating the law. And Thatcher says in years past, nobody has put in any effort to help it.
“It has been a long road. I do think that we’ll be able to get it passed this year, I think that the public is behind this, I think that people are starting to recognize that it’s time for this," Thatcher said.
Utah is only one of three states that doesn't have any type of enforceable hate crime statute.