Hate Crimes Bill Has LDS Support

The sponsor of this year's version of anti-hate crimes legislation on Utah's Capitol Hill believes his bill will get a significant boost from a public statement from the state's predominant religion and simultaneous endorsements by two LDS Church-owned news media outlets.
"We can get it done," Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, said Friday of House Bill 85.
"We still have a lot of work to do," he said, adding that for some lawmakers, the church's statements "will make a difference."
The legislation would increase penalties for threats or acts of violence or vandalism against people based on their race, religion, ethnic background or sexual orientation. It is the last provision which has generated most opposition among Utah lawmakers and others who claim it carves out "special rights" for gays and lesbians.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that homosexuality is a sin and it has actively supported, with money and volunteers, legislation in Utah and other states intended to prevent recognition of gay marriage.
But on Friday, church leaders issued a statement that the religion "does not oppose HB85, Hate Crimes Amendments, as drafted.
"The church abhors all hate crimes. The Church's well-known opposition to attempts to legalize same-gender marriage should never be interpreted as justification for hatred, intolerance or abuse of those who profess homosexual tendencies, either individually or as a group."
Litvack said church lobbyist Bill Evans had communicated the statement to legislative leaders, and Litvack, who is Jewish, was busy making sure colleagues were aware of it.
In addition to the church's official nonopposition, church-owned KSL radio and television on Friday editorialized in support of the hate crimes bill, saying, "It is high time to approve it."
The broadcast editorial followed by one day an editorial in the church-owned Deseret News endorsing the bill.
Under the headline "Pass the hate-crimes bill," the News rejected arguments that the legislation would establish a thought crime. "Nor would the bill establish protected classes of citizens or imprint some official stamp of approval on homosexuality," said the editorial.