Hate crime law arguments of 2019 bring back memories of 1994 discussions

Posted: 6:02 PM, Feb 20, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-20 18:19:57-05

INDIANAPOLIS — “And when anyone, anyone, from inside or outside the State of Indiana seeks to perpetrate a crime of violence against someone based upon their race, creed or color, we will take a strong stand, using the full force of the law, to make sure that that individual receives the kind of sentence that they deserve.”

That argument may sound like something you'd hear today in favor of an Indiana hate crimes law, but it actually came from then-Governor Evan Bayh back in 1994.

The arguments currently being heard both for and against hate crime legislation aren't new. In fact, you've probably been hearing them over and over again for more than 25 years.

RTV6 dug into the archives and found mentions of hate crime legislation as early as 1994 – 25 years ago.

Bayh pushed for a hate crimes law in when a Ku Klux Klan rally was planned for the Indiana Statehouse. He wanted the law in Indiana as a signal to the Klan. Part of his reasoning? Indiana is one of the few states without such a law, something proponents still mention in 2019.

On the other side of the discussion, Rep. Woody Burton, R-Greenwood, was against the legislation when it was discussed in February 1994. A lot of the specific language used decades ago wouldn’t be acceptable or appropriate today, but much of the rhetoric remains the same.

At the time, Burton didn’t want sexual preference included in the bill. He said giving gay people a protected status could eventually lead to gay marriage in Indiana.

“A person’s lifestyle and their sexual preference in their home is their own business,” Burton, who is still a state representative, said in 1994. “We have no right to interfere with that. But when we start giving minority status and moving in legislation to promote that kind of thing, all we’re doing is allowing them to come out into the public more open and promote that kind of thing and use that type of thing to make it something glorious and glorified for the younger people and the younger generation that’s coming up.”

In the Indiana Senate Tuesday, the list of characteristics that judges could use for determining a larger sentence was removed from the 2019 hate crimes bill. This change made many of the groups who spoke out against the bill very happy.

"There's just a handful of crimes that this bill might envision," Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute said Monday, before the changes. "We think the courts are doing a fine job currently. Finally, when you start creating new rights, they inevitably bump up against other things and we have very grave concerns about religious liberty should this bill be passed in its current form."

The amendment passed the full Senate, leading Holcomb to release a statement that says, in part:

“We have a long way to go, a lot of work to do, and fortunately the time yet still to do it. I will continue to fight for the right ultimate outcome for our state and citizens this year so we’re not right back here in the same place next year.”