INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Supporters of establishing a hate crimes law in Indiana say they hope their push will overcome longstanding opposition in the Legislature following the deadly violence at a rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The Anti-Defamation League lists Indiana as one of just five states without laws against crimes motivated by biases, such as race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. Proposals to establish such a law in Indiana have repeatedly failed over the past decade.
Sen. Lonnie Randolph, a Democrat from East Chicago, said he believed that should change after the violence last weekend.
“What happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, was a tragedy,” said Randolph, who represents a largely minority legislative district. “I’m hopeful that maybe that incident could spark something in a lot of areas in the country and here in Indiana where it’s abundantly clear that we need hate-crime legislation.”
Some lawmakers in Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature have opposed adopting a hate crimes law, saying the motivation for a crime shouldn’t change how a person is punished. Conservative groups argue the measure could be a step toward allowing the government to punish people for their beliefs.
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said Indiana judges can consider motivation in criminal sentencings, but said he believed state law should recognize such factors.
“I think it’s time to label what we have now as hate crimes legislation to dispel, really, the misconception that that cannot be considered by a judge in sentencing, because it can be,” Bosma said this week.
Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane said he was encouraged by Bosma’s stance.
“Indiana needs to put their foot down and actively condemn these heinous acts,” the Democrat from Anderson said.
The Indiana Senate approved a bill in 2016 that would have allowed judges to impose tougher sentences for bias crimes, but the House never took action. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Sue Glick of LaGrange, withdrew it during this year’s legislative session, saying proposed amendments threatened to gut its provisions.
Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said he’s always been in favor of a hate crime statute.
“If someone is convicted of a hate crime they should be known as a hate crime individual,” he told the Post-Tribune. “We need to have those individuals labeled when they’re convicted, just like we want sexual predators to register so they’re known.”