Minority legislators object to modification to Utah’s ‘Stand your ground’ law

Utah State CapitolOver the objections of two racial minority members of the Utah House, representatives passed a bill that would “clarify” that judges and attorneys can’t bring up objections to the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law in any lawsuits where a person uses that right.

Current law says an “innocent” person does not have to retreat is they are confronted by physical assault – they can defend themselves with responding force, even pull a gun, knife or another weapon.

HB259 by freshman Rep. Cory Maloy, R-Lehi, said no new rights or defensive actions are in his bill, just a “clarification” that in court it could not be alleged that the “innocent” person responding to aggression did anything wrong in defending themselves.

But Reps. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake, and Karen Kwan, D-Murray, both racial minorities, said that the bill could well add to the “implied bias” seen in Utah and elsewhere.

Chavez-Houck said her son was actually asked by security to leave Temple Square – through which he was walking – because he was apparently seen as a threat.

In another instance, one of her children were asked to leave a store when the clerk said they were making other customers nervous.

And, of course, her children were doing nothing wrong – just being a minority in a public place.

“Implicit bias is real” – both women said in asking that Maloy’s bill not pass.

Maloy said he stands “side-by-side” with Chavez-Houck and Kwan in fighting prejudice and social wrongs.

But his bill takes away no rights, nor gives new rights, to anyone – but provides protections for all in their ability to defend themselves without having to worry that their actions could be wrongly presented in court.

The bill passed 53-15, with all House Democrats voting against it along with several Republicans.