ALL NEWS

Lawmakers push to amend state constitution, removing ‘exception of slavery’

Aug 28, 2020, 2:29 PM | Updated: Aug 29, 2020, 5:06 pm
Utah Democrats harassment...
Utah State Capitol building in August 2020. (Credit: Paul Nelson)
(Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Utah Coalition to Abolish Slavery launched a campaign Friday to amend the state constitution, removing the exception of slavery and involuntary servitude as crime punishments. This original language is included in both the state and federal constitutions under the 13th Amendment. 

However, Utah lawmakers — along with representatives in five other states — are pushing to remove this language through a ballot initiative in November. The initiative, House Joint Resolution 8, would remove the exception if the majority of Utah voters supported it. 

Slavery enshrined in the Utah constitution

“This language, copied from the 13th Amendment when Utah became a state, does not reflect Utah values,” said Rep. Sandra Hollins (D-House District 23), one of the resolution sponsors. “This antiquated and offensive language inflames the unjust racial disparities in our criminal justice system. No matter what your opinion is of what our prison system should be, we can all agree it should not be slavery.”

The initiative — named Amendment C — was unanimously passed by the state legislature in 2019, securing its place on the November ballot in 2020. 

The 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865, virtually abolished slavery in the U.S. However, critics argue the original language contains a loophole that upholds the institution of slavery in modern-day. 

Utah’s state constitution reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within this State.” 

Now, lawmakers are pushing to omit the wording of “except as a punishment for crime.” 

If passed, Amendment C would get rid of that language, while leaving the rest of the constitution’s amendment intact. 

“Is this who we are as a state?” Hollins said. “When people look at our constitution, do we want them to see this? I think that’s one of the questions [people] need to ask themselves when they decide whether they’re going to vote for this or not.”

That’s why she’s spearheading the campaign to get Amendment C passed in November, Hollins said. Although Amendment C is getting broad support from across the political spectrum, Hollins admits she has received a few negative comments. 

However, she also believes it has got people talking about racial issues in Utah. 

“I think part of us starting to have a conversation — and starting to heal some of the racial divide that’s right here in this state — is that we need to start having conversations about it,” Hollins said “I think this would be a good conversation starter.”      

A growing movement

The campaign comes on the same day as the launch of the Abolish Slavery National Network: a coalition of several states dedicated to removing this language from state and federal constitutions. As part of the movement, three states will vote on the resolution in 2020 — including Utah, New Jersey and Nebraska. 

In 2018, Colorado became the first state to remove “slavery” and “involuntary servitude” from its state constitution. Twenty-one states still uphold the original language. 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

Shots were reportedly fired in the parking lot of Taylorsville High School on Thursday afternoon, l...
BY MADISON SWENSON, KSL TV

Teen arrested for firing shots in Taylorsville High parking lot

A 17-year-old boy has been arrested in connection to the shots fired last week in the parking lot of Taylorsville High School.
15 hours ago
humane society...
Elizabeth Weiler

Humane Society of Utah says to adopters “come one, come all”

The Humane Society of Utah says their shelters are filling up, especially with large breed dogs and puppies.
15 hours ago
amber alert...
Adam Small

Suspect in Layton Amber Alert charged

LAYTON, Utah– Prosecutors in Davis County have officially filed charges against a man suspected of kidnapping a 13-year-old boy, which prompted police to send out an Amber Alert in December. New charging documents allege Aaron Michael Zeman, 26, also known as Tadashi Kojima, had been communicating with the 13-year-old Layton boy as far back as […]
15 hours ago
Tyre Nichols...
Elizabeth Weiler

MLK invoked as Tyre Nichols’ life is celebrated in Memphis

(CNN) — Mourners, from Vice President Kamala Harris to the activist the Rev. Al Sharpton, on Wednesday celebrated the life of Tyre Nichols, whose death at the hands of police in Memphis led to second-degree murder charges against five officers. “Mothers around the world, when their babies are born, pray to God when they hold […]
15 hours ago
The Federal Reserve unanimously approved a quarter-point interest rate hike Wednesday, slowing the ...
Nicole Goodkind, CNN

Fed approves small rate hike, nodding to improved inflation outlook

The decision comes after months of large rate increases intended to cool the economy and marks a return to a more traditional interest-rate policy.
15 hours ago
A group of high school students stand on a basketball court during a free throw. (Amanda Dickson/KS...
Amanda Dickson

Opinion: Is sportsmanship dead in high school basketball?

After a weekend basketball game, it's clear some of our students have a lot of learn when it comes to civility and sportsmanship.
15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Lawmakers push to amend state constitution, removing ‘exception of slavery’