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Indiana hate crime bill advances in Legislature

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DARCY COSTELLO

Associated Press

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.”

Bill advocates, 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.

Representatives 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 criminal way.

“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.

Though Glick’s 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.

“For the 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 do that.”

 

 

Posted 2/8/2017

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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