INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
The Indiana House approved hate crimes legislation Tuesday that doesn’t
specifically list gender identity, age or gender among its protected traits,
although the lawmaker who revised the bill said it includes language that
covers everyone possible.
House members voted
57-39 Tuesday to advance the bill. The Senate must either agree to the
changes made by the House or send it on to a joint House-Senate conference
committee to resolve any differences.
The House vote came
one day after the chamber unexpectedly adopted hate crimes language in an
amended, unrelated bill.
Eric Holcomb said in a statement Monday that he supports and appreciates the
legislation, saying that it “covers all forms of bias crimes and treats all
people equally.” In January, he had pushed for more comprehensive
legislation in the conservative state that would get Indiana off a list of
five states without a hate crimes law.
“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,” Holcomb added in his statement.
A Senate committee
had passed another 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 new bias crimes
language was added Monday to a bill on controlled substances in state
prisons. That language refers to an existing state bias crimes reporting
statute that mentions color, creed, disability, national origin, race,
religion and sexual orientation, but doesn’t explicitly cover age, sex or
But the revised
bill says that bias can also be considered due to the “victim’s or the
group’s real or perceived characteristic, trait, belief, practice,
association, or other attribute.”
Steuerwald, R-Avon, who brought the amendment Monday, said before Tuesday’s
vote that the revised language covers everyone possible.
“I made a promise
to the proponents that nobody would be left out. That was very important for
both sides of the issue. This applies to every form of hate and treats every
form of hate equally,” he said.
Leader Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne opposed the legislation because he said
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
Republicans of working “behind closed doors” and using sleight of hand to
limit debate and discussion.
He said Tuesday
that House Democrats “have been very clear from the beginning” that they
support a comprehensive hate crimes bill.
"It’s very clear
that this bill before us today falls very short of that standard,” GiaQuinta
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.
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.