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Gov. Herbert talks LGBTQ inclusion in Utah hate crime law, transgender birth certificate changes

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At Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s monthly press conference Thursday, several reporters kicked off their questioning with LGBTQ inclusion in hate crime legislation and the ability of transgender people to change their birth certificates to reflect their true gender.

Lindsay Whitehurst of the Associate Press kicked off questioning by asking about the hate crime legislation being sponsored again by Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, noting that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement saying it doesn’t oppose hate crime legislation.

While the governor stated he hasn’t yet read this year’s bill that attempts to pass a workable hate crime law, he did say, “I think most of us would agree that we need to have enhanced penalties [for hate crimes]. There is a benefit there for stopping crime and bad acting by people out there, enhanced penalties for anything that would fall under a definition of a hate crime.”

“I think it’s very worthy of discussion and debate,” the governor continued. “The fact that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints evidently has weighed in on this and said they are not opposed to it can’t hurt the possibilities. I don’t know that changes everybody’s mind, but I think that is a discussion we ought to have and I welcome the debate.”

Asked by Fox 13 News’ Ben Winslow whether the governor thinks LGBTQ people should be included in the bill, Herbert said, “Yeah, I think the message we want to put out there is that members of the gay community, LGBTQ, are loved and welcomed and appreciated for who they are. They ought to feel safe. They ought to feel loved. So, anything we can do to enhance that, we ought to do.”

Bob Bernick of Utah Policy asked about a bill by Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, that would restrict transgender people from changing ther gender on their birth certificate, saying such a bill goes against what the governor “just said.”

Herbert said again that he hadn’t read the bill and didn’t know the motivation behind it.

“I certainly, again, agree that if people want to be identified as whatever it is they want to be identified, if that’s a gender issue, if it’s a sexual orientation, they ought to be able to do that,” the governor stated. “If they want to have the ability to put that on a public record, there ought to be a process to have that happen. I think most people would welcome that and that there’s no reason why we should stop it.”

Winslow then asked if the governor would, then, veto a bill that would prohibit changing their gender marker on their birth certificate or driver license.

“Without seeing the bill, I don’t like to use the ‘V’ word often,” the governor answered. “I try to work and shape things as they go through the process so we work together in a collaborative fashion. So I’d expect that that’s how we would work on this issue if it starts and comes up. Nobody has talked to me about it yet, except for you guys today. But, we will work proactively to get good policy in place on all legislation.”

Glen Mills of ABC4 News brought up a bill by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, that would allow for transgender people to change their birth certificates, and asked why the governor thinks it failed in the past.

Herbert said it was a simple lack of votes.

“Maybe that’s the lack of awareness, lack of understanding. Who knows why people vote the way they do or why they don’t?” Herbert said. “Many times legislation comes up two, three, four times in a row until it finally, in fact, germinates and has the support, and probably the clarity, necessary to get the votes and pass. That’s the legislative process. It’s not usually one and done, it usually is a thought, an idea, maybe germinates into some legislation, maybe doesn’t get out of committee, then we come back the next year and we have broader support and maybe it passes, basically based on what the public wants to have happen, which is what you’d expect out of a representative form of government.”

The 2019 Utah Legislative Session begins Monday. The press conference is is aired live by KUED Television and streamed on radio stations across the state.

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