Push to adopt law targeting hate crimes fails again in Indiana Legislature

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File photo of Indiana Statehouse

INDIANAPOLIS — A push for Indiana to adopt a law targeting hate crimes has failed again in the state Legislature.

The bill was set for consideration Tuesday morning in a state Senate committee, but the chairman says he decided to not take a vote because a consensus couldn’t be reached over its wording.

Bills targeting hate crimes have failed in recent years and Indiana is one of just five states without laws against crimes motivated by factors such as race, gender, religion and sexual orientation.

Republican legislative leaders had voiced support for the measure, but social conservatives against it argued hate crime laws create special protected classes that treat victims of similar crimes differently. Supporters maintained the lack of such a law makes Indiana look backward.

Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) issued this statement:

“In the end, we were unable to come to a consensus on how to approach this issue. Some members felt that making a list in Indiana code would inevitably leave someone off, some felt the bill was fine as it was, and some felt that Indiana code already allows the aggravator concept to apply in a bias-crime situation, which is true.

“The Indiana Supreme Court, in its ruling in the case of Witmer v. State, found Indiana’s sentencing statute allows a court to punish bias crimes more severely by allowing judges to consider any factor they see fit, which would include things like race or gender identity.

“For those reasons, many members of our caucus feel that there is justification for not moving Sen. Glick’s bill forward at this time. I have no doubt the General Assembly will continue to discuss this issue moving forward, but that conversation will now have to wait until next year.”

State Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis), chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC), issued this statement:

“Today, the people of Indiana were let down.

“The Senate has made it clear that it does not matter if a person is harmed because their attackers were upset that they had a different race, color, creed, disability, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity. They will not get the justice they deserve because some in the Senate cannot face their responsibility to protect all Hoosiers. They prefer to delay and put off decisions until another day.

“How many more people will be harmed while they dawdle? Will it require our own version of Charlottesville before those in power will be compelled to finally act?

“Bias crimes legislation sends a clear message that communities deserve justice for the evil acts of a prejudiced few. Polling indicates that the people of this state support a law of this type by a large margin.

“But none of that matters. Indiana remains one of only five states in this country that does not see the need for a hate crimes law.

“We are elected to make the hard decisions and take the lead in protecting all Hoosiers. IBLC members have worked on hate crimes legislation for years. We were hoping that all of our colleagues would join in that effort this year.

“This is a shameful day, but the IBLC believes we will win this fight eventually. Our cause is just, and we will prevail.”

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry issued this statement:

“I am exceedingly disappointed that the legislature has again failed to act on a hate crimes bill.

“Hate motivated crimes will continue to occur in our state. How we collectively identify and address those crimes should be clear and direct. We will not tolerate the targeting of fellow individuals due to their race, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristic.

“There is statewide support for Indiana joining with the 45 other states and federal government where hate crime laws have been enacted. This support is apparent not only through public statements and legislative testimony, but also by a recent poll where 65 percent of respondents favored such a law in our state.

“Despite today’s setback, we will continue to work for explicit recognition of hate motivated crimes and the ability to appropriately address those crimes in Indiana’s criminal code.”

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