Joe McQueen playing saxophone

Legislative Wrap-Up for Multicultural Communities

Sarina Ehrgott Stories

The Office of Multicultural Affairs will soon become an official division of state government.

The change, approved by the Legislature during the recently completed session, also put the (soon to be) Division of Multicultural Affairs into state code. The Multicultural Commission and the Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission were also put into state code.

Previously, all of those entities existed through a 2012 Executive Order from Governor Gary R. Herbert. Putting the division and commissions into state code will not impact their mission or purpose.

While that was the most important legislative action for Multicultural Affairs, it was not the most impactful bill for the multicultural community in Utah. Instead, for many, that would probably be the hate crimes legislation.

That bill passed after years of failing to advance through the Legislature. Through the law, a judge could enhance a penalty for a crime if the victims were targeted because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or other personal attributes. Lawmakers also added political expression into the law shortly before it passed.

Other legislative actions brought important recognition to the accomplishments of Utah’s multicultural communities. Among those were a resolution honoring jazz legend Joe McQueen, who has lived in Ogden for more than 70 years, on his 100th birthday.

Other resolutions honored Navajo Code Talkers, the workers (including Chinese, Irish, and African Americans) who built the Transcontinental Railroad, and the suffragettes who helped get women voting rights.