Advocates: Indiana’s prosperity depends on hate crime law

Emphasizing the economic as well as social benefits of hate crime laws, an energic and diverse crowd rallied inside the Indiana Statehouse Tuesday in support of two bills that would add penalties for crimes motivated by bias.

The rally, organized by Central Indiana Alliance Against Hate, kicks off a renewed grassroots effort to push Indiana lawmakers to pass a hate crime bill during the 2018 session. In addition to a broad array of speakers from differing religious and cultural backgrounds endorsing such legislation, the event offered audience members the opportunity to meet face-to-face with their legislators.

David Sklar, director of government affairs for the Indianapolis Jewish Community, implored the crowd to actively advocate for a hate crime law and to push back against the opposition.

“We need you,” Sklar, said. “We need you here in the Statehouse. We need you to talk to your friends. We need you to pick up the phone. We need to send emails because as optimistic as we have been this morning, there are people who will be picking up those phones and saying, ‘Do not pass this law. We don’t need this. It’s bad.’”

Two hate crime bills have been introduced this legislative session. Sens. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, and Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, who have each authored a similar measure in previous sessions, are again pushing for protections for crime victims targeted because of their characteristics or beliefs.

Both bills include sexual orientation and gender identify, along with race, disability, national origin and religion, in the list of characteristics for which the victim was selected.

The bills have been assigned to the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law. Sklar said Glick’s legislation, Senate Bill 418, will get a hearing Jan. 23. Whether Taylor’s measure, Senate Bill 271, will be heard is uncertain.

Men and women representing many organizations stepped up made brief remarks about their experiences and why they wanted to see a law against hate crimes in Indiana.

“I want my patients and children to grow up in a state where love predominates,” said Anita Joshi, a member of the Greater Indianapolis Hindu Community and a pediatrician in Crawfordsville. “Hate is not a Hoosier value.”

Many of the speakers pointed to the potential economic impact of a hate crime law. They said without anti-bias legislation, Indiana will be seen as intolerant, causing businesses to choose other states for headquarters and expansions, and college graduates will go elsewhere to work and put down roots.

“If Indiana is going to be a state that works,” one of the speakers said, “we need to be a state that works for everyone.”

Other speakers highlighted the societal and emotional benefits of a hate crime statute. A law, they said, would send a message that Indiana is welcoming, offering everyone safety and security along with respect and dignity. Hate crime legislation has attracted bipartisan support and has been very effective in other states.

Not having such a law, they said, was a “moral stain” on Indiana.

Finally, Trevor Baldwin, president of Indiana Association of the Deaf, captured the urgency and frustration of many at the rally by signing, “Enough is enough.”

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