Many Utah legislators don't believe discrimination is a problem in Utah. Utah headlines prove they’re wrong.
Data shows hate crimes in Utah are increasing. Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, is sponsoring S.B. 86, a hate crimes bill. Thatcher likes to call it a victim targeting bill. Even though multiple cities and counties, and almost two dozen religious leaders, support the hate crimes measure, the bill is almost dead.
A quick perusal of Utah’s headlines shows discrimination in Utah is still a problem.
There’s the Utah high school sports team that has to play through slurs shouted from the stands: “Look at all those n------ out there playing.” Coaches had to address bias in refereeing two years ago.
Then there are the Weber High School cheerleaders whose video went viral after they filmed themselves chanting racial vulgarities.
There’s the breast-feeding bill, which was introduced to protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in Utah businesses without being relegated to the bathroom. Reactions include the claim that nursing a baby in public is immodesty “in your face.”
And then there’s the case of Mark Porter, who yelled a slur at a young black boy and struck his father with a stun cane.
Rep. Rebecca Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, is sponsoring H.B. 283, Workplace Protection Amendments, which would extend workplace protection from discrimination to all employees in Utah, including those who work for employers with less than 15 employees.
In 2017 Utah’s Antidiscrimination and Labor Division increased charges more than 33 percent. Even worse, an unfavorable audit showed that the UALD has only filed charges in 0.7 percent of cases over the past five years.
In other words, the bar to prosecute an antidiscrimination charge is too high.
Employers, even small employers, are protected against unfair antidiscrimination charges by the nature of the charges themselves – they are very difficult to prove. An employee would have to show that certain actions occurred because of the employee’s protected status. The same is true for hate crimes.
Some who oppose the bill argue that such bills are a byproduct of the “culture wars.” But gender and disability complaints are the two most common discrimination charges, not sexual orientation. The situation is similar to legislators who want to repeal the surrogacy laws because gay couples might be using them, when in actuality repealing such a law would hurt heterosexual couples far more.
Discrimination and hate crime legislation would probably be an area that would benefit from having a more diverse Legislature.