INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
An Indiana Senate panel delayed voting Tuesday on legislation targeting hate
crimes, a move that followed emotional testimony from a mother who said
police disregarded race as a motive when her son was severely beaten for
Indiana is one of
just five states without laws that specifically take into account crimes
fueled by biases toward things like race, religion and sexual orientation.
But every year, efforts to change that founder amid fierce opposition from
conservatives who say it would unfairly create a specially-protected class
came one day after the sentencing of a white Allen County teen, who will
serve 30 days for attacking a 16-year-old African-American last June near a
Fort Wayne-area trailer park.
The victim’s mother
accused police during her testimony of not taking into account a pattern of
racially motivated terror surrounding the attack. That’s in addition to
threatening messages, dead animals left outside their home afterward, as
well as a group of men that she said displayed a gun to some of her other
“Right now I am a
Hoosier, but I wish I wasn’t,” the mother testified, adding that she moved
her family from Illinois to the town of New Haven, not knowing they picked
the “wrong community.”
Indiana’s GOP-dominated Statehouse have consistently opposed hate crimes
legislation. That changed in the wake of clashes between white supremacists
and counter demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one woman
dead in August.
Now House Speaker
Brian Bosma of Indianapolis and Senate leader David Long of Fort Wayne both
said they favor the idea. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has also said that he
is open to it.
What remains to be
seen is if they can get rank-and-file Republicans to go along with the bill
by GOP Sen. Sue Glick, a former county prosecutor from LaGrange County.
Her bill would
allow a judge to take into account whether a crime was motivated by
someone’s race, religion, color, sex, gender identity, disability, national
origin, ancestry, sexual orientation or ethnicity. It would also require
such crimes to be reported to the FBI. Currently, Indiana law enforcement
agencies are not required to do so.
Much of the state’s
business community is in lockstep support. They argue the lack of a hate
crimes law makes Indiana look backward to corporations and skilled workers
who may otherwise consider moving here.
Indianapolis was named last week as one of 20 potential sites for a second
conservatives, however, are mobilizing in opposition. They argue that a hate
crimes law would punish thoughts, instead of focusing on the severity of a
Jim Bopp, an
influential Republican attorney from Terre Haute, testified the bill would
recognize a “selected list of privileged people” favored by “liberal and
president of the Indiana Family Institute, questioned whether there is
actually a problem that needs to be addressed.
“There has been a
suggestion that communities and municipalities and police departments are
underreporting crimes - that judges need to be prodded,” Smith said. “What
if Hoosiers really are tolerant and welcoming?”
Bopp and the
Indiana Family Institute have previously opposed statewide protections for
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
anecdotal accounts suggest the number of so-called bias crimes are on the
rise and the Southern Poverty Law Center reports 26 active hate groups in
Glick’s bill was
scheduled for a vote Tuesday, according to the Senate’s committee schedule.
But Corrections and Criminal Law Committee Chairman Mike Young said
additional time is needed to review a slew of proposed amendments and work
on striking a deal.
African American lawmakers said the proposal doesn’t go far enough. They
called for even stiffer sentences for hate crimes.
The mother of the
teen beating victim agreed. She said her son was called “the n-word and told
to go back to Africa” before he was beaten unconscious.
“I oppose this bill
because it’s just not enough,” she said.