INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
The Indiana Senate is moving toward a vote on legislation aimed at getting
Indiana off a list of five states without a hate crimes law, even as the
bill’s critics contend that it falls short of that goal.
decided in a private meeting Monday to put the bill up for a final
concurrence vote as early as Tuesday. If at least 26 senators approve the
bill’s bias crimes language, it would head to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb,
who supports it, without any additional discussion or opportunities for
The bill’s language
would allow judges to impose longer sentences for crimes motivated by bias.
It refers to Indiana’s bias crimes reporting statute that mentions color,
creed, disability, national origin, race, religion and sexual orientation,
but doesn’t explicitly cover age, sex or gender identity.
The bill, however,
states that bias can also be considered due to the “victim’s or the group’s
real or perceived characteristic, trait, belief, practice, association, or
Holcomb and other
Republicans argue that the bill covers all 6.6 million Hoosiers because it
covers all characteristics and traits, whether expressly listed or not.
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.
Members of the
House voted 57-39 last week to advance the current bias crimes legislation
after the new language was amended into an unrelated bill.
Holcomb has pushed
for comprehensive hate crimes largely because the Anti-Defamation League
lists Indiana as one of only five states, along with Georgia, South
Carolina, Wyoming and Arkansas, without hate crimes protections. He’s voiced
support for the current bill, despite previously saying he wanted a bill
with an enumerated list of traits that include gender and gender identity.
League said Friday that it’s “deeply disappointed” by the legislation,
saying in a statement that the current bill is too vague and “does not meet
our standard for a real and effective hate crimes bill in 2019.”
But on Monday,
Holcomb said that getting the bill passed, even if it’s not perfect, is a
“I don’t want to go
back. I want to go forward. And this would be a tremendous step forward,”
the governor said.
Holcomb and others
noted that the ADL had previously said that an enumerated list was needed
and now appears to be going back on that.
House Speaker Brian
Bosma said 21 states have the same number of descriptors or fewer.
“If (the ADL) wants
the list to mean something, we’ll be off the list,” he said.
Leader Phil GiaQuinta cited the ADL’s statement last Friday in urging
Republican lawmakers to “reverse course so that we can work together to pass
a hate crimes bill into law that protects all Hoosiers.”
In 2015, then-Gov.
Mike Pence signed a religious protections law that critics widely panned as
sanctioning of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
people. After the state faced boycott threats, lawmakers made changes to the
law to prevent it from being used to justify discrimination against LGBT
people in the state.