Chesterton Tribune



Holcomb supports hate crimes bill lacking gender protections

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said he supports proposed hate crimes legislation that doesn't specifically list gender identity, age or gender among its protected traits, despite his repeated calls to get Indiana off a list of five states without a comprehensive hate crimes law.
The Republican-controlled Indiana House unexpectedly adopted hate crimes language Monday in an amended, unrelated bill. House Democrats immediately came out against the amendment, saying it was hashed out in secret and deliberately excludes protections for more than half of the people living in the state.

Holcomb said in a statement that he supports and appreciates the proposal that "covers all forms of bias crimes and treats all people equally." In January, he had pushed for more comprehensive legislation in the conservative state.

"Now, we need to make sure we get to the finish line and move Indiana off the list of states without a bias crimes law," he added.

The bias crimes language was added to a bill on controlled substances in state prisons. It mentions color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion and sexual orientation, but doesn't explicitly cover age, sex or gender identity.

A Senate committee had passed an unrelated hate crimes bill in February, but a few days later the state Senate stripped out a list of specific protected traits, including sexual orientation, gender identity and race.
The bill amended Monday was accepted by voice vote, which means citizens don't know who did and did not support it.

Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, who brought the amendment, said the revised language covers everyone possible.

"I think everybody's had a chance to be heard," he said. "I've spoken to everybody you can humanly think of multiple times, and I've taken everybody's concerns into consideration."

House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne opposed the amendment because it left out key classes that need protection. He said the House Democratic caucus is majority women and that they are not explicitly covered by the bill.

"We refused to support a proposal that failed to protect more than half of Indiana's population: women. We stand ready to work with House Republicans to pass a hate crimes bill this session that protects all Hoosiers," GiaQuinta said. "The ball remains in their court."

He accused Republicans of working "behind closed doors" and using sleight of hand to limit debate and discussion.

"We want comprehensive hate crimes legislation that protects all Hoosiers. That is not what House Republicans proposed here today," GiaQuinta said.

Steuerwald's bias crimes language is more comprehensive than the hate crimes legislation the Senate had changed in February to strip out a list of specific protected traits Holcomb had supported.

The altered version of that bill said only that judges can consider bias as an aggravating circumstance when weighing a stricter sentence for a crime.

Only Indiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Wyoming and Arkansas have no explicit hate crimes law allowing for higher sentences when a person's sexual orientation, race and religion are the basis for a crime. Those laws vary to some degree but generally allow for stiffer sentences to be given to people who are convicted of crimes motivated by hatred or bias.


Posted 3/26/2019




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