Push for hate crimes law fails again in Indiana Legislature

Posted at 2:57 PM, Jan 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-30 14:57:16-05

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana will remain one of just five states without a hate crimes law after key lawmakers in the GOP-dominated Senate announced Tuesday that they were abandoning a bill targeting crimes motivated by bias.

Leaders of Indiana’s GOP-dominated Statehouse have consistently opposed hate crimes legislation. But that changed this year in the wake of clashes between white supremacists and counter demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one woman dead in August.

The bill by Republican Sen. Sue Glick had support from GOP leaders, including House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate leader David Long. Then on Tuesday the chairman of a key Senate committee decided to not take a vote on the bill.

“It’s a matter of peoples’ opinions. We just couldn’t come to consensus,” Long, of Fort Wayne, said late at a press conference announcing the effort was done for the year.

A deep thread of social conservatism runs throughout the state and lawmakers, headed into an election year, faced intense pressure from activists who argue that creating a hate crimes law would create a special protected class of victims.

At the same time, much of Indiana’s business community was in lock-step support of the measure, which they say is important to lure talent and new business to the state.

Indianapolis was named one of 20 finalists competing to be the location of a second Amazon headquarters. A coalition of central Indiana municipal officials, including Republicans, had pushed for a hate crimes law in hopes of making the state more appealing.

Despite his support for the measure, Long dismissed their worries.

“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. I would hope they’d be coming to Indiana because we are a welcoming state, because we have a great economy and we have low cost of living.”

The bill by Glick, a former county prosecutor from LaGrange County, would have specifically allowed 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.

Advocates say 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 the state.

Democratic Sen. Greg Taylor, of Indianapolis, ripped Republicans for being content with the status quo.

“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. “We are comfortable with the status quo.”