The end of Colorado’s 2021 legislative session last week and the beginning of Wyoming’s interim legislative session this week elevated the urgency of addressing hate crimes in the region.
In the final three weeks of the Colorado legislative session lawmakers introduced a bill to update two statutes related to bias-motivated crimes and harassment in Colorado. The legislation, Senate Bill 280, clarified language to hold hate crime suspects accountable for mixed-motive hate crimes. State law previously required prosecutors to prove that bias was the sole or only motivating factor of a hate crime. The bill closed a loophole that allowed those who commit targeted crimes to escape liability if they could point to any other factor that motivated their actions.
In addition to supporting Senate Bill 280, the ADL Mountain States Region supported legislation to create a legal defense fund for undocumented immigrants in Colorado and a bill to protect individuals who face discrimination because of their gender identity or expression. ADL opposed several bills that would have limited women’s access to reproductive health care services, including abortion, and bills designed to undermine Colorado’s voting system.
While Colorado lawmakers acted to update the state’s hate crime laws, Wyoming lawmakers initiated a process to develop a hate crime law. The Wyoming Joint Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the topic of bias-motivated crimes at its interim committee meeting on Tuesday. ADL Senior Associate Regional Director Jeremy Shaver testified before the committee at its meeting in Casper. Wyoming is one of four remaining states with no laws against bias-motivated crimes on its books.
A bias-motivated crimes law was introduced in Wyoming during the 2021 legislative session, but lawmakers tabled the measure in order to have a more comprehensive look into hate crimes. Members of the Joint Judiciary Committee named bias-motivated crimes as one of seven topics that lawmakers will study over the remainder of the year.
ADL helps lead a coalition of 41 businesses and civil rights groups advocating for a state hate crime law in Wyoming. The coalition has asked Wyoming lawmakers to study the issue and bring forward new legislation next year.