Utah Capitol 08

After years of trying, Sen. Daniel Thatcher’s hate crimes bill is on the way to Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk.

Thatcher, R-West Valley City, finally got his victim targeting legislation approved after the LDS Church signaled they would not be opposed to the issue prior to the 2019 session.

The bill takes a unique approach. Prosecutors can only seek an enhanced penalty for a crime after they have secured a conviction. During the sentencing phase, prosecutors can seek a harsher punishment if they are able to prove the victim in the crime was targeted specifically because they belonged to one of several “protected categories” spelled out in the bill.

Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, said Wednesday he was appreciative of the effort Sen. Thatcher put in finally getting the bill to pass.

“Everyone deserves an opportunity to learn and live free of harassment,” he said. “I want to thank Sen. Thatcher for all of his hard work on this.”

“We teach our children there are things we do and things we don’t do. It’s important we send this message to our community,” said Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan.

Thatcher has estimated the new, tougher hate crimes bill would apply to, at most, 3 cases per year.

The bill passed a final vote in the Senate 22-3.

Gov. Gary Herbert has indicated he will sign the bill into law.