Legal Status of official English in Utah
In 2000, this state passed an initiative with 67% of voters’ support and made English the state’s official language, which was recently upheld by a state court. ProEnglish successfully intervened after the Attorney General’s office defended the law only by insisting it was merely symbolic, and the court upheld that the law should be interpreted in a meaningful way.
Utah’s Official English Law (2002)
AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS IN GENERAL; DECLARING ENGLISH TO BE THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE FOR THE CONDUCT OF GOVERNMENT BUSINESS IN UTAH; REQUIRING THE RETURN TO THE GENERAL FUND OF ANY FUNDS APPROPRIATED OR DESIGNATED FOR PROVIDING SERVICES IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE; AND PROVIDING EXCEPTIONS.
This act affects sections of Utah Code Annotated 1953 as follows:
63-13-1.5. Utah Code Annotated 1953
Section 1. Section 63-13-1.5 is enacted to read:
63-13-1.5. Official state language.
(1) English is declared to be the official language of Utah.
(2) As the official language of this State, the English language is the sole language of the government, except as otherwise provided in this section.
(3) Except as provided in Subsection (4), all official documents, transactions, proceedings, meetings, or publications issued, conducted, or regulated by, on behalf of, or representing the state and its political subdivisions shall be in English.
(4) Languages other than English may be used when required:
- (a) by the United States Constitution, the Utah State Constitution, federal law, or federal regulation;
- (b) by law enforcement or public health and safety needs;
- (c) by public and higher education systems according to rules made by the State Board of Education and the State Board of Regents to comply with Subsection (5);
- (d) in judicial proceedings, when necessary to insure that justice is served;
- (e) to promote and encourage tourism and economic development, including the hosting of international events such as the Olympics; and
- (f) by libraries to:
(i) collect and promote foreign language materials; and
(ii) provide foreign language services and activities.
(5) The State Board of Education and the State Board of Regents shall make rules governing the use of foreign languages in the public and higher education systems that promote the following principles:
- (a) non-English speaking children and adults should become able to read, write, and understand English as quickly as possible;
- (b) foreign language instruction should be encouraged;
- (c) formal and informal programs in English as a Second Language should be initiated, continued, and expanded; and
- (d) public schools should establish communication with non-English speaking parents of children within their systems, using a means designed to maximize understanding when necessary, while encouraging those parents who do not speak English to become more proficient in English.
(6) Unless exempted by Subsection (4), all state funds appropriated or designated for the printing or translation of materials or the provision of services or information in a language other than English shall be returned to the General Fund.
- (a) Each state agency that has state funds appropriated or designated for the printing or translation of materials or the provision of services or information in a language other than English shall:
(i) notify the Division of Finance that those monies exist and the amount of those monies; and
(ii) return those monies to the Division of Finance.
- (b) The Division of Finance shall account for those monies and inform the Legislature of the existence and amount of those monies at the beginning of the Legislature’s annual general session.
- (c) The Legislature may appropriate any monies received under this section to the State School Board for use in English as a Second Language programs.
(7) Nothing in this section affects the ability of government employees, private businesses, non-profit organizations, or private individuals to exercise their rights under:
- (a) the First Amendment of the United States Constitution; and
- (b) Utah Constitution, Article 1, Sections 1 and 15.
(8) If any provision of this section, or the application of any such provision to any person or circumstance, is held invalid, the remainder of this act shall be given effect without the invalid provision or application.
LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN UTAH
|253,249||All languages other than English combined|
|150,244||Spanish or Spanish Creole|
|7,905||French (incl. Patois, Cajun)|
|5,715||Portuguese or Portuguese Creole|
|1,499||Other Native North American languages|