By a vote of 34-14, the Indiana Senate vote to concur with its House counterparts on a bias crimes bill that includes an indirect enumerated list of protected categories.
Under SB 198, bias can be considered due to the “victim’s or the group’s real or perceived characteristic, trait, belief, practice, association, or other attribute…including but not limited to an attribute” in the state’s existing bias crime reporting statute.
That statute expressly mentions color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation.
It does not include gender identity, age or sex.
Because those omissions, Democrats asked their Republican counterparts to not concur with the House and work towards a bill that included those categories.
However, Republicans like Mike Bohacek of Northwest Indiana said the legislation included everyone.
Reaction from various Indiana political circles was mixed.
Gov. Eric Holcomb:
- “Months ago, I decided to make protecting Hoosiers against bias crimes a key part of my 2019 legislative agenda. Today, finally, Senate Bill 198, accomplished that goal and I will sign it into law as soon as it gets to my desk. Those targeted for crimes because of color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation are protected. But this new law goes further. It also will cover bias crimes committed because of other traits and characteristics, such as gender, or gender identity, or sex, or age, and other commonly targeted groups. Our new law will allow judges to enhance sentences based on listed and non-listed categories. Criminals who attempt to instill fear by attacking others based, for example, on who someone loves, who they are, how they identify, how they pray, should know their sentences can, and I believe should, be enhanced to the fullest extent of the law.”
House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis):
- “This bill provides an excellent solution and it covers all Hoosiers equally. You cannot name a characteristic or trait not covered under this bill. We believe this is the most comprehensive and inclusive bias crimes statute in the nation. The reference to our current bias crime definition meets or exceeds that of 21 other states’ bias crime statutes, and all of those states are off the list of states without a bias crimes law. There’s no reasonable assertion as to why this all-inclusive measure doesn’t take Indiana off the list.”
Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville):
- “By referencing a specific list of characteristics, Senate Bill 198 provides guidance for judges, while still giving them the flexibility to increase the sentence for any bias-motivated crime as they see fit. I’m pleased to see this bill advance to the governor’s desk. It’s truly inclusive and will provide protections for all Hoosiers.”
House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta:
- “I am disappointed Senate Republicans approved a bill that doesn’t protect all Hoosiers. Once again, there was no debate on this bill and no opportunity for citizens to make their feelings known. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana have made it clear SB 198 will not get Indiana off the list of states without a valid hate crimes law because it is too vague and doesn’t provide a specific list of characteristics that includes age, ancestry, gender and gender identity. It is up to the governor now to do the right thing and refuse to sign a hate crimes bill into law that does not protect all Hoosiers. It’s what he has insisted upon since this debate began. We have nearly four more weeks to get this done the right way. It’s what the people of Indiana want and deserve.”
Mindi Goodpaster, VP of Public Policy, United Way of Central Indiana, and David Sklar, Assistant Director, Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, co-chairs of the Indiana Forward campaign:
- “Today, hate crimes legislation will move from the Indiana General Assembly to the Governor’s desk for his consideration and potential signing into law. The Indiana Forward campaign remains disappointed by the lack of a comprehensive list of characteristics we know are the targets of bias motivated crimes in our state and concerned by language that is overly broad and vague to the point of raising potential constitutional questions. Throughout this legislative session, we have been transparent, consistent and steadfast in asserting that hate crimes legislation must include age, race, ethnicity, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, disability, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. Although age, sex, gender and gender identity are missing from SB198, the millions of Hoosiers who identify with these characteristics are not missing from our coalition’s unwavering support, and we will continue to work to ensure that they are added, and specifically identified, in the statute. We are proud to have helped advance the conversation on this topic with the support of many lawmakers who also believe in a comprehensive solution. We stand together with the thousands of supporters from major businesses, non-profits, faith-based communities, civic organizations, universities and colleges, and individuals all around the state who joined this considerable effort in pushing for effective legislation for the benefit of all Hoosiers. We remain committed to advocacy on this issue with our state lawmakers for as long as it takes to truly move Indiana Forward with a fully comprehensive and inclusive hate crimes law.”
Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar:
- “The bias crimes legislation heading to the Governor is a big step in the right direction. Though the list is not as comprehensive as we had advocated for, what the Legislature has passed is still a meaningful hate crimes bill. It is more inclusive than some states’ laws and on par with others. Not to mention, it’s far better than having no law at all. We encourage Gov. Holcomb to sign the bill. To those wanting a perfect bias crimes bill that spells out everything, we hear you and we understand; that was our shared goal. While that’s ideal, it was not politically realistic at this time. It has taken the state 25 years to get to this point and in today’s climate, doing nothing wasn’t an option in our view. No one should want to perpetuate a false perception about our state being unwelcoming; that only exacerbates our workforce challenges. Separately, we are disappointed by what we believe is an unfair preliminary assessment of Indiana’s bill by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The legislation contains a list and additional language intended to cover those not specifically spelled out. We strongly encourage the ADL to reassess its position on Indiana’s status and remove the state from the list of those without a hate crimes law.”
Indy Chamber President & CEO, Michael Huber on behalf of the Indiana Competes:
- “With nearly a month left in the legislative session, we urge lawmakers to keep working towards the kind of inclusive, effective bias crimes law that polls show a majority of Hoosiers support. Absent further action, however, we’re left to either embrace an imperfect bill or accept the consequences of continued inaction for criminal justice and economic development. Given this choice, we endorse Governor Holcomb signing SB198 into law. Passing SB198 should move Indiana off the list of states that haven’t cracked down on hate crimes. It will punish more perpetrators of these unconscionable acts, build a more diverse workforce and stronger business climate. It isn’t a perfect outcome, but it is progress in our efforts to welcome people from all walks of life to contribute to our economy, and employers who want to invest with confidence in Indiana. The incredible statewide coalition mobilized by Indiana Competes represents widespread public and business community support for clear, comprehensive action against bias crimes. It shows that Hoosiers reject hate, and our laws are slowly catching up with our ideals. But our work isn’t finished.
“Indiana may move off ‘the list,’ but bias crimes won’t move off the Indy Chamber’s legislative agenda. We’ll keep pushing to strengthen the law so no Hoosiers are left behind or denied justice.”
State Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon):
- “The intent of this bill is to cover every form of hate and treat every form of hate the same. This is the most comprehensive bias crimes statute in the country, leaving no one out. With this policy, every Hoosier will receive equal protection under the law, which is a Constitutional right, while reinforcing that bias-motivated crimes in Indiana will not be tolerated.”
State Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero):
- “While Senate Bill 198 is not perfect, it is still an inclusive bill that protects all Hoosiers equally. I appreciate the opportunity to work with Rep. Steuerwald on this legislation and support his efforts. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this conversation, and made their voice heard. This is a major, positive step forward for our state.”