INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
A top Statehouse Republican said Friday that he will use a parliamentary
maneuver to bottle up hate crimes legislation, dealing a potential setback
to Gov. Eric Holcomb and others who want to remove Indiana from the list of
just five states that don’t have such laws.
Pro Tem Rodric Bray said in a statement that he will assign all hate crime
legislation to the Senate Rules and Legislative Procedure committee that he
oversees. Bray, of Martinsville, said the unusual maneuver shouldn’t be
construed as an attempt to kill the bills, but he didn’t rule out the
possibility that Senate Republicans may ultimately decide against advancing
hate crime legislation.
“My intention is
... to hold all proposals related to this issue until our caucus has had the
opportunity to fully discuss each proposal,” Bray said, adding that only
then will Republicans decide which - “if any” - to move forward.
A spokeswoman for
Holcomb did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in recent
weeks, the Republican governor has barnstormed on the issue, saying “it’s
not only the right thing to do, it’s long overdue.”
“I’m convinced that
the overwhelming majority of Hoosiers feel the same way,” Holcomb said in an
interview earlier this month.
have hate crime laws, which 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. Only Indiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Wyoming
and Arkansas do not.
What remains to be
seen is what sort of law might be palatable to Indiana’s deeply conservative
Legislature - whether it would be open-ended and general or whether it would
specify characteristics that would be covered, such as race, gender,
religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, which is what Holcomb
While many business
leaders support the governor’s call for a hate crime law and view the
absence of one as a sign of intolerance, many religious conservatives,
including some rank-and-file legislators, see it as an unnecessary exercise
that could lead to other unwanted social changes.
For years, they
have stymied efforts to pass a hate crime law, arguing that judges can
already consider factors such as bias when determining sentences.
Holcomb has said
that passing a hate crime law isn’t just the moral thing to do, it could
also help with economic development because it would make the state appear
more tolerant. “We are not just known for our Hoosier hospitality; we back
it up,” Holcomb said. “I will continue to go anywhere - urban, rural,
suburban - and say the exact same thing to any audience.”