UPDATE: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 (5:15 p.m.)—The Indiana Senate heard the bill this afternoon. Sen. Aaron Freeman (Republican, Indianapolis—District 32) attached an amendment removing protected classes (victims targeted for “color, creed, disability, age, national origin, ancestry, race, religion, gender identity, sex, or sexual orientation”) and replaced the list with the word “bias” (victims targeted due to bias). The amended bill passed 33-16. You can read an updated story here
With a decisive vote Monday, Indiana is now one step closer to joining 45 other states in enacting hate crimes legislation.
The Public Policy Committee met in the Indiana Senate chambers and voted 9 to 1 send Senate Bill 12 to the Senate for a vote. The bill was co-authored by Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, and Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, and will cover individuals targeted for their “perceived or actual color, creed, disability, age, national origin, ancestry, race, religion, gender identity, sex, or sexual orientation.”
Indiana—along with South Carolina, Arkansas, Wyoming, and Georgia—is currently one of only five states in the country without such protections.
After hearing hours of public comment mostly in favor of the bill, Sen. Philip Boots, R-Crawfordsville, announced on the floor he would be the only member of the committee to vote against moving forward with the bill.
“I don't know why we want to make this a complicated issue, and put a list in here,” he said before casting his vote. “I just think we need a cleaner option.”
Boots said he could have supported it if it did not include the specific classes.
“This bill is not going to change what people think. I don't care what you do. You cannot legislate people's thoughts. There's still going to be bias,” he said. “This is not going to change anybody's actions. If you are prone to violate the law today, you are going to continue to violate the law tomorrow. It's not going to make any difference, in my opinion.”
Before the final vote was taken, the bill was amended to remove additional classes including political affiliation and public safety officials.
Speaking in the hallway after delivering his testimony, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said he supports the legislation in its current form without those additional classes.
“Virtually every crime has a built-in enhancement if the victim was a police officer,” he said.
After casting his vote, Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, told NUVO he was thrilled with the outcome of the hearing.
“I'm so happy that we were able to get this out of committee. Let's go to the floor, let's get it done, let's send it over to the House, and let them go to work,” he said.
Taylor said it was important that the additional classes were removed and the bill was left with the final categories covered under the law.
“Don't convolute the issue with adding these categories that we all know don't have a history of discrimination,” he said. “When you do that, you cast a disparaging feeling on the other people, and the attempts to add things like public safety officials and all this other stuff was just smoke and mirrors. And, now we're past that.”
Taylor said he cautioned the bill's supporters to remain vigilant over the next week even with the winning vote.
“I feel very optimistic about it in Senate,” he said. “I don't know what's going to happen in the House, but as I said to the people out here, stay tuned. Make sure they're here for second reading, so nobody plays shenanigans on the floor.”