Indiana lawmakers to discuss hate crimes laws again in 2019 session

Posted: 10:40 AM, Nov 28, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-28 18:59:56Z

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana is one of five states without a hate crime law. One Republican lawmaker will try to change that.

Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) will propose legislation to create a hate crime law in Indiana, he said Tuesday.

Cook's proposal would allow Indiana courts to increase sentencing if the suspect commits a crime against the victim's age, race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, color, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, status as a police officer or service in U.S. armed forces.

The gender identity and sexual orientation parts of the bill may end up being a sticking point when the general assembly reconvenes in January. Some Republicans have shown interest in supporting the legislation, but it's unclear if they would support it if it covers gender identity and sexual orientation, also known as comprehensive hate crime legislation.

It isn't a one-to-one comparison because they are in different chambers, but Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane said Indiana Senate Democrats will be arguing for comprehensive hate crime legislation in January. 

"Our bill is comprehensive," Lanane said. "I think the environment is right for us to look at Indiana finally having a hate crime legislation on the books in 2019. ... It's up to [Republicans] as to whether or not they'll allow [gender identity and sexual orientation] to stop legislation from going forward. But it needs to be comprehensive."

Cook said his bill was created with input from judges, prosecutors and interest groups across Indiana.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said he supported a hate crime law in Indiana after anti-Semitic graffiti was found at a Carmel synagogue in July. 

"I think it's long overdue that we move forward as a state," Holcomb said. "I want to be one of 46, not one of five." 

A common argument against hate crime legislation is that it would legislate or prosecute a person's thought. Cook said his bill will not do that. Lawmakers will get to argue about the bill when the 2019 legislative session begins in January. 

"It's not possible to eliminate discrimination and this bill is not about criminalizing thought, or First Amendment free speech," Cook said. "There is still a lot more to be done moving forward, but I am hopeful that by working together with my House and Senate colleagues, we can present a solid framework for hate crime legislation that can help support victims and hold criminals accountable."

MORE COVERAGE | Indiana lawmakers move forward with hate crime bill  |  Gov. Holcomb to support hate crime law after Carmel vandalism; Dem. leaders call for follow through  |  Marion Co. prosecutor: A hate crime law would improve safety  |  Central Indiana organization launches hate crime database  | ​​​​​​​ Mother testifies about son's brutal attack in support of Indiana hate crime bill  |  Indiana is one of five states with no hate crime law. It will stay that way.  |  OPINION: Indiana needs a hate crime law to protect all groups