Coalition launches to pressure lawmakers to pass hate crime law

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INDIANAPOLIS – A broad coalition of business, faith and non-profit leaders launched a new effort Tuesday, targeting lawmakers and promising strong advocacy supporting the passage of a hate crime law this legislative session.

“It’s about doing the right thing, and it’s about talent,” Michael Huber said, president and CEO of the Indy Chamber.

The coalition is called Indiana Forward. Organizers are planning an aggressive campaign to push lawmakers to pass legislation that lists specific protected groups including sexual orientation and gender identity.

Already one proposal suggests a broader approach with no specific groups listed, members of Indiana Forward aligned that approach to a non-starting compromise.

“The world is watching us, they have been since RFRA,” Ann Murtlow said, president and CEO of the United Way of Central Indiana. “That point has come and gone. That scar is visible on Indiana. No one has forgotten that. There’s only one way to turn that around, and that’s to make it clear we protect all Hooisers.”

Opposition is also working to sway lawmakers behind-the-scenes.

A recent op-ed in the Indianapolis Star from four Republican lawmakers argued a hate crime law would restrict free speech.

“This proposed legislation brings to mind a state of government control nearly identical to that described in George Orwell’s classic novel 1984,” the lawmakers wrote.

Yet supporters point to the fact Gov. Eric Holcomb is now strongly publicly pushing for legislation this session, a hope that will push legislation over the finish line.

“I think there’s always concern when you’re talking about legislation,” David Sklar said, with the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council. “We know we’re in for a long road of discussions.”

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