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Bill aims to study missing and murdered Native American women, girls, and LGBTQ+ ‘epidemic’

A bill touted as a first step towards addressing what leaders are calling an epidemic of missing and murdered Native American women, girls, and LGBTQ+ people is being heard today on Utah’s Capitol Hill.

Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, sponsored HB 116, Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, Girls, and LGBTQ+ Task Force, in an effort to collect data on the issue.

The task force she is hoping to create would be comprised of 17 members, including legislators, Native American tribal and organizational leaders, a Tribal judge, a Native American survivor of violence, A University of Utah researcher, a sheriff and a district attorney.

The group is tasked with identifying the “systemic causes behind violence that indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ+ experience, including patterns and underlying factors that explain why disproportionately high levels of violence occur against indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ+, including underlying historical, social, economic, institutional, and cultural factors that may contribute to the violence.”

They will also identify gaps in law enforcement data collection and study ways to address those gaps.

They will then recommend improvements in the “criminal justice and social service systems for preventing and addressing the murdered and missing indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ+ crisis in Utah.”

They will have until Nov. 20 of this year to report on their finding.

Romero is asking for a one-time $40,000 appropriation to fund the task force.

The bill will be heard by the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Standing Committee today at 3:40 p.m. in room 450 of the Utah State Capitol.

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