INDIANAPOLIS – Following a second bomb threat to the Indianapolis Jewish Community Center, a group of concerned Hoosiers gathered at the Statehouse Wednesday to advocate for a hate crime law in Indiana.
The group, comprised of several individuals from various ethnic backgrounds, has been working together for the past two years to share why they believe such a law is needed in the state.
A hate crime law would allow judges to impose tougher sentences for crimes motivated by race, religion, sex, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation.
Indiana is one of five states without a hate crime law including Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas and Wyoming.
“A crime that is motivated by bias because of an individual’s race, because of an individual’s sexual orientation, is not just a crime against that individual victim. It is a crime against an entire community,” said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry. “The perpetrator of that crime is sending a signal to that community that they are not welcome, that they are not wanted.”
State senators said there wasn’t enough support to push the bill forward. Opponents said hate crime laws create special protected classes that treat victims of similar crimes differently.
“Anyone who would suggest we are not currently in a climate in which that sort of conduct is occurring, has their head in the sand,” said Curry. “Ultimately, the bias crime and the hate crime provision protects everyone. We all have a race. We all have a sexual orientation. We all have a gender."
Similar bills have also failed in the past.
"It's not for a group of individuals. It's for our entire state," said Rep. Greg Porter (D-District 96), who proposed the bill. "Being one of five states that doesn't have one … what kind of message are we continuing to send?"
Following the 2016 presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported an uptick in harassment and intimidation cases around the country.
Racist graffiti popped up on walking trails and on churches in four different Indiana cities including Bloomington, South Bend, Indianapolis and Bean Blossom.