INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Representatives and leaders from various local groups gathered at the Statehouse on Wednesday to discuss their disappointment in failed hate crime legislation and a renewed push for legislators to reconsider the bill.
This is the second year in a row hate crime legislation has failed at the Statehouse despite the fact that Indiana is one of only five states in the country that doesn’t have a biased crime statue.
The bill would have allowed judges to impose tougher sentences for crimes motivated by race, religion, sex, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation.
David Sklar with the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council cited the recent threats and violence targeting the Jewish community in Indiana and nationwide.
“We are here as a group with a simple message: We are disappointed that the General Assembly did not see fit to move a bias crimes bill during the first half of the General Assembly. But we still believe there is ample time to revive language and address this very important issue before the end of session,” Sklar said.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry spoke about the benefits of a hate crime provision for his office in addressing bias-motivated crimes.
“We believe that the explicit language is necessary in the statute so that prosecutors can appropriately argue, and the courts will consider, how bias motivation in a criminal act has a greater effect on the safety and well-being of the public at large,” Curry said. “A crime that is motivated by bias because of an individual’s race, because of an individual’s sexual orientation, is not just a crime against that individual victim. It is a crime against an entire community.”
Opponents of the bill argued that it created special protected classes that result in treating victims of similar crimes differently. However, Curry says that’s not the case.
“Those who talk about the fact that we’re creating this special class of victims is really not the point because ultimately the bias crime and hate crime provision protects everyone because essentially we all have a race; we all have a sexual orientation; we all have a gender; we all have a religion even if it’s a non-religion. So those who would focus on the fact that it’s supposedly limiting those who it protects is not accurate. It would protect everyone,” Curry said.
Even though the original hate crime measure died in the Indiana Senate, the coalition of leaders and representatives believes there is still time for the language to be revived in the House of Representatives in the second half of the 2017 legislative session.
The leaders of local groups are urging community members to contact their representatives and urge them to take action to address hate crimes.