Indiana lawmakers kill hate crimes bill again – indystar.com

Central Indiana Alliance Against Hate holds Hate Crime Law Rally at Indiana Statehouse Matt Kryger/IndyStar

Supporters for hate crime legislation hold signs for love, not hate, during a rally of supporters for a hate crime law, on Organization Day at the Indiana Statehouse, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017.(Photo: Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar)Buy Photo

Senate Republicans pulled the plug Tuesday on a hate crimes bill, leaving Indiana as one of only five states without such a law.

Senate leader David Long said Republicans could not reach agreement about Senate Bill 418, which would have allowed judges to impose tougher sentences for crimes motivated by factors such as race, religion, sex, gender identityand sexual orientation.

This is very disappointing, said Rajesh Patnaik, whose sign shop in northwest Indianapolis was vandalized with anti-Hindu graffiti in September. I was hoping there was momentum this time.

The decision comes despite a rise in reported hate crimes in Indiana and five months after a violent white nationalist rally last summer in Charlottesville, Va.

We could not reach consensus, said Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, who carried the legislation. Thats why there were so many amendments offered, and thats why we pulled it back.”

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Long said he believes there is growing public acceptance for the legislation and he expects lawmakers to take it up again in 2019. But the measure is dead for this year, he said.

I think time will change some peoples opinions in our caucus, or well have different members in there in the future, he said. Its important not to misunderstand what happened today. Its not for a lack of caring or belief that you shouldnt do it. Its just how you do it and the language you use.

A recent poll indicated that nearly two-thirds of Hoosiers favor a hate crimes law. But such measures have consistently failed in recent years at the General Assembly amid fierce opposition from social conservatives, who argue hate crime laws create special protected classes that treat victims of similar crimes differently.

For example, prominent Republican attorney Jim Bopp argued last week that the legislation only adds stiffer penalties for crimes committed against people deemed worthy by liberals and the business community. The legislation would leave out Trump supporters who might be physically attacked solely for their political beliefs, he said.

But Glick, the bills author, countered that characteristics such as race, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation apply to everyone equally.

The bill was scheduled for a vote Tuesday in the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, but Chairman Mike Young decided not to hold a vote after Republicans failed to reach consensus during a private caucus meeting Monday.

Young said there had been an avalanche of amendments to the bill. They included changes that supporters considered detrimental. One would have stripped gender identity from the bill, and another would have allowed longer sentences based on any characteristic, belief, practice or association.

The difficulty is trying to find the language we can agree upon, Young said.

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Conservatives have argued the legislation is unnecessary because the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that judges can increase sentences for racially motivated crimes, even though that factor is not listed in Indianas list of aggravating circumstances.

But Glick and others, including Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, argue that the bill would encourage judges to consider such factors.

I think we can be more emphatic, Glick said.

Similar legislation has failed to advance for at least three years.

A hate crimes bill died last year on the same day the Jewish Community Center of Indianapolisreceived bomb threats. The year before thatit failed to advance despite a record 69 hate crimes being reported to the state. The measure also failed in 2015as Indiana was in an uproar over religious freedom and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Supporters had hoped for a different outcome this year after a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August left one woman dead. That event was heavily promoted by the Indiana-based leader of a racist white nationalist group. A second Indiana man was arrested for assault and battery during the rally.

Supporters also hoped that Amazons interest in Indianapolis as one of 20 finalists for the online retailers second headquarters might help. The company has cited support for diversity as one of the factors it will consider in choosing a location.

Long dismissed concerns that the demise of the hate crimes legislation would affect Amazons decision.

I really dont think it should affect anything, he said. “Nor do I think we should tailor all of our legislation in hopes that a company will locate here.

Call IndyStar reporter Tony Cook at (317) 444-6081. Follow him onTwitterandFacebook.

From Sunday carryout sales to expanding the list of who can purchase cannabis-extract cannabidoil, the General Assembly is considering a number of contentious issues this year. Nate Chute/IndyStar

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Indiana lawmakers kill hate crimes bill again – indystar.com

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February 3, 2018  Tags:   Posted in: Hate Crimes |

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