INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana will remain one of just five states without a hate crimes law after
Republican Senate leaders announced Tuesday they were killing a bill that
targeted crimes motivated by bias.
Advocates say the
move deals a blow to Indianapolis’ bid to land a new Amazon headquarters
after unexpectedly making the shortlist of 20 finalists. The Republican
Statehouse majorities, however, could not overcome opposition within their
"It’s a matter of
peoples’ opinions. We just couldn’t come to consensus,” Republican Senate
leader David Long, of Fort Wayne, said at a press conference announcing the
effort was dead for the year. Later he added: “I’m the leader, but I’m not
A recent poll
conducted by Ball State University found that 65 percent of Indiana
residents support the creation of a hate crimes law. But a deep thread of
social conservatism runs throughout the Statehouse, and lawmakers faced
pressure from activists who argue that a hate crimes law would create a
special protected class of victims.
A provision that
would have protected transgender people was a particular sticking point.
The bill by
Republican Sen. Susan Glick would have specifically stated in law that a
judge could take into account whether a crime was motivated by race,
religion, color, sex, gender identity, disability, national origin,
ancestry, sexual orientation or ethnicity.
It also would have
required such crimes to be reported to the FBI. Currently, Indiana law
enforcement agencies are not required to do so.
“When it comes to
hate, when it comes to bias, I think it’s very important that we protect all
of our citizens,” said Glick, a former LaGrange County prosecutor. “I think
it’s important that Hoosiers send that message.”
suggest instances of bias crimes are on the rise in Indiana, and the
Southern Poverty Law Center reports 26 active hate groups in the state.
Aside from Indiana,
Georgia, Arkansas, Wyoming and South Carolina also lack hate crimes laws. In
Georgia, where Atlanta is also on the Amazon shortlist, legislation to
create a hate crimes law is still alive in the Legislature.
In Indiana, hate
crimes bills have repeatedly failed to advance, but advocates initially
expressed optimism that this year would be different. That’s because for the
first time Long, Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma and GOP Gov. Eric
Holcomb signaled a willingness to support such legislation.
The change of
opinion came in the wake of clashes between white supremacists and counter
demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one woman dead in
“I said at the very
outset that I was open to the idea of a hate crimes bill. I still am,”
Holcomb said in a statement on Tuesday. “But, for any progress to be made,
there’s going to have to be consensus among lawmakers.”
quick to blame Republicans, while specifically singling out Holcomb, who
they accused of tepid leadership.
Republicans are more than willing to jeopardize Indianapolis’ shot at
landing Amazon’s second headquarters,” Indiana Democratic Party Chairman
John Zody said in a statement. “Call this what it is: a shameful
disappearing act and failure of leadership from the governor.”
Greg Taylor, of Indianapolis, similarly ripped the GOP.
“What we did today
was say to companies like Amazon ... ‘We don’t need your business, we don’t
need your economic development, we don’t need your jobs,’” said Taylor, who
is African American. “We are comfortable with the status quo.”
meanwhile, pointed to a provision in existing state law that allows a judge
to consider any special circumstance during sentencing. That, combined with
existing court precedent, means a judge could indeed consider crimes
motivated by hatred during sentencing, they argue.
But supporters say
Indiana has a lingering reputation for intolerance. In 2015, then-Gov. Mike
Pence signed a religious protections law creating a legal defense for
businesses that objected to serving gay people. That provoked a national
backlash and led to boycott threats, which prompted lawmakers to make
changes to the law.
Long was dismissive
of concerns that the bill’s failure could imperil Indianapolis’ Amazon bid.
“I really don’t
think it should affect anything,” said Long. “Nor do I think we should
tailor all of our legislation in hopes that a company would locate here.”