Indiana takes no action on hate crime legislation

INDIANAPOLIS  — A legislative study committee failed to forward a recommendation regarding whether Indiana should create a hate crimes law, despite Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s support for such a law.

The Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code heard four hours of testimony Wednesday before approving a final report that said some members support a bias-motivated criminal statute and some don’t, The Journal Gazette reported .

Republican Rep. Tom Washburne of Inglefield said draft legislation wasn’t specifically called for. Washburne said the testimony will help lawmakers when the 2019 session begins.

Democratic Rep. Matt Pierce of Bloomington said the committee could’ve done more.

“If we wanted to, we could make stronger and detailed recommendations,” he said. “The idea is to break the logjam.”

In July, Holcomb called on lawmakers to pass a hate crimes law during the 2019 legislative session after anti-Semitic graffiti was spray-painted at a suburban Indianapolis synagogue.

Indiana is one of only five states without an explicit hate crimes law. The laws typically enhance the severity of a crime, making a level 5 battery crime a level 4 battery crime if bias or hate was found to be a motivating factor.

Opponents to such laws raise concerns about the number of protected characteristics there could be.

“We oppose a hate crimes bill on the grounds that it is divisive,” said Al Parsons, of the Coalition of Central Indiana Tea Parties. “We believe it’s un-American.”

David Sklar, of the Jewish Community Relations Commission, said hate crime laws aren’t exclusionary and can apply to everyone.

“We all have a religion or a sex or a race,” he said.