INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
For the second year in a row, Indiana lawmakers are pushing a measure
targeting hate crimes in a state that is one of five nationwide with no
hate-crime related laws on the books.
Similar to last
year, the measure would not create a new hate or bias crime in state
statute, but it would let judges consider imposing tougher sentences on
crimes motivated by things like a victim’s perceived or actual race,
religion, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation.
The bill’s author,
Republican Sen. Susan Glick, said she thinks there is more solid bipartisan
support for this year’s proposal, but it would have to overcome opposition
from at least two influential social conservative advocacy groups.
The American Family
Association of Indiana suggests the measure could be a step toward allowing
the government to punish people for their beliefs, while the Indiana Family
Institute is concerned it would create “favored” classes that leave some out
and lead to unequal punishments for the same crime.
If lawmakers feel
current punishments aren’t adequate, a more fair solution would be to raise
the minimums on those crimes evenly, said Ryan McCann of the Indiana Family
Institute. That way, he said, specific classes of people aren’t singled out
for “extra special attention” in the law.
“We support equal
justice for all Hoosiers and that’s why we oppose the bill,” McCann said.
“We can’t accept equal justice for some and not all.”
meanwhile, argue that though the crime may be the same, the larger impact
and intent behind the crime warrant a judge’s consideration. Hate crimes are
meant to instill fear in entire communities, they say.
from groups advocating for Jewish, Muslim, black and intellectually disabled
communities voiced their support for the measure to the committee. So did
law enforcement groups and prosecuting attorneys organizations.
Glick, who also
submitted last year’s bill, doesn’t see this year’s measure as quelling free
speech because it would only apply to those who act on their beliefs in a
“What we’re saying
is your opinions are yours, you have that right. What you don’t have is the
right to take that out on other people because you don’t agree with their
religion or you don’t agree with their ethnic origin,” she said.
The measure was
approved 6-3 Tuesday with an amendment that would also extend protections to
off-duty law enforcement officers who are targeted because of their jobs.
proposal died in the House last year without a hearing after clearing the
Senate, she said she hopes this year’s attempt is more successful.
individuals that are targeted, it is so horrendous and has such a
long-lasting effect,” she said. “I just think it’s important that we as a
state, we as a citizenry, address their fears and eliminate them if we can