Hate Crimes

Indiana—along with South Carolina, Arkansas, Wyoming, and Georgia—is currently one of only five states in the country without a hate crimes law on the books.

A series of high profile incidents helped highlight this disparity, including a July 2018 attack on Congregation Shaarey Tefilla in Carmel, in which a pair of spray-painted Nazi Party flags and Iron Crosses, along with burn marks, were discovered on the brick walls around the garbage bins outside the synagogue.

Both Republican and Democratic leaders have pledged 2019 would be the year Indiana would remove itself from this ever-shrinking list.

However, the question of whether or not to include protected classes continues to be a sticking point.

Hate crimes legislation was conspicuously absent from House Speaker Brian Bosma's list of legislative priorities for this session, but remains a top priority for Democrats and the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, in particular, has been outspoken on this issue. He even broke with members of his own party to push for progress.

“I look forward to working with the General Assembly to achieve this goal so that our state law reflects what's already in my administration's employment policy,” he said during his Jan. 19 State of the State Address. “Businesses interested in Indiana care about this issue, but it's not just about business. At heart, this has to do with people's dignity and how we treat one another. Standing strong against targeted violence motivated to instill fear against an entire group is the right thing to do.”

Indiana Forward, a bipartisan group of representatives from the business, nonprofit, advocacy, education, and faith communities praised Holcomb's efforts. At a minimum, the campaign believes that any bias crimes law should clearly enumerate at least the following immutable characteristics: race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sex, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

“We look forward to working collaboratively with him and our leaders in the General Assembly to make sure the best legislation crosses the goal line,” read part of the group's statement following Holcomb's address.

Senate Bill 469, authored by Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis; House Bill 1203, authored by Rep. Pat Boy, D-Michigan City; House Bill 1159, authored by Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis; and House Bill 1371, authored by Rep. Chris Campbell, D-West Lafayette; all list the protected classes.

House Bill 1093, authored by Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon; House Bill 1020, authored by Rep. Tony Cook, R-Avon; House Bill 1320, authored by Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis; Senate Bill 12, co-authored by Rep. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores; Senate Bill 75, co-authored by Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, Sen. John Ruckelshaus, R-Indianapolis, and Sen. James Merritt, R-Indianapolis; and Senate Bill 599, authored by Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolismake bias an aggravating circumstance, but do not list protected classes in the language of their bills.


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Rob Burgess, News Editor at NUVO, can be reached by email at rburgess@nuvo.net, by phone at 317-808-4614 or on Twitter @robaburg.

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