INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana has a reputation for intolerance that will remain if the state
Legislature declines again to approve a hate crimes law this session,
advocates said Tuesday.
“We need this for
business growth, for our reputation as a state and because we need to stand
on the right side of history,” Anita Joshi, a pediatrician who has lived in
the state for 25 years, said during a statehouse rally.
Indiana is one of
just five states without laws that specifically take into account crimes
motivated by biases such as race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and
gender identity. But every year efforts to create such protections founder
amid fierce opposition from conservatives who say it would create special
protected classes that treat victims of similar crimes differently.
This year, however,
there is cause for optimism, advocates say. Both Republican Gov. Eric
Holcomb and House Speaker Brian Bosma have said they are open to the
A change in tone
from some powerful Republicans comes in the wake of clashes between white
supremacists and counter demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, that
left one woman dead in August. It also comes amid a heated debate over
whether President Donald Trump is a racist, which touched off after he made
disparaging comments last week about Haiti and referred to “shithole”
countries in Africa.
The rally sought to
build support for legislation addressing so-called bias crime, including a
measure sponsored Republican Sen. Sue Glick, of LaGrange. It would allow a
judge to take into account during sentencing whether a crime was motivated
by factors like a person’s race, religion sexual orientation and ethnicity.
and the federal government have felt it appropriate,” said Marion County
Prosecutor Terry Curry, a Democrat. “It’s time for Indiana.”
Glick pulled the
plug on a similar bill last year after Republican Sen. Mike Delph, of
Carmel, sought amendments that would have gutted the measure. It died the
same day that the Indianapolis Jewish Community Center received a bomb
measure’s chance of passage this year is far from certain in a state where
resistance to change is often touted as a virtue.
executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, said hate
crimes laws amount to a “politically correct” effort that would set “Indiana
down the course of punishing thoughts.”
“In America, we
prosecute people for what they do not for what they think,” Clark said.
“Where is the evidence that crimes are being adequately prosecuted?”
concern that a hate crimes law would elevate the status of certain classes
of people, including gays and lesbians, over others.
hope economic arguments could help persuade Republicans.
struggled to adapt to an increasingly global economy. However, one bright
spot has been the emerging tech sector in Indianapolis. Without a hate
crimes law, though, advocates argue it makes it more difficult to the lure a
diverse set of companies and high-skilled workers needed to fill the void.
“Time and time
again, Indiana is its own worst enemy,” said Kyle Casteel of Indianapolis,
who would be protected as a gay man by such a law. “We send a message to the
rest of the country that only certain kinds of people are welcome here.”