With two hate crime bills introduced in the Indiana Legislature this session, proponents are hoping the third time will be the charm for finally getting a measure to the governor’s desk.
Senate Bills 271 and 418 both seek to protect crime victims who were targeted specifically because of their origins or beliefs. Each has been referred to the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law, but neither has been scheduled for a hearing.
To build grassroots support for a hate crime law and call upon legislators to vote yes on such legislation, the Central Indiana Alliance Against Hate will be hosting a rally at the Indiana State Capitol. The event will be from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. Representatives from alliance member organizations and other groups are scheduled to speak.
David Sklar, director of government affairs for the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, said the momentum to pass a hate crime bill has been growing in Indiana, propelled, in part, by the violent white supremacists’ march in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year that killed one woman and shocked the nation.
Sklar said the horrific event woke up the whole country to the fact that hate and racist organizations are still very active. Indiana is home to 26 hate groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The FBI also has been tracking a rise in bias-motivated crimes across the United States since 2014, reaching 6,121 incidents in 2016.
Hate crime bills have failed in the Indiana Statehouse during the 2016 and 2017 General Assembly sessions. Sklar is optimistic for a bill to pass in 2018, but if Republicans and Democrats do not get a measure across the finish line, he said the grassroots effort will continue.
“This is immensely important,” Sklar said, “so we’re going to keep coming back to the table as long as it takes.”
Bills 271 and 418, authored by Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, and Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, call for sentences to be enhanced if the victim was selected because of his or her characteristics including race, religion, ethnicity, gender identify and sexual orientation.
Sklar acknowledged the inclusion of gender identity and sexual orientation creates some opposition to the bills among some legislators and outside religious organizations. However, he said the objections are decreasing each year.
He said a hate crime bill passed in 2018 has to include language protecting the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.