Would a hate crime law in Indiana make a difference?

Posted: 5:28 PM, Feb 15, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-15 17:28:59-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Advocates for a hate crime law stated their case ahead of Monday's statehouse hearings on Senate Bill 12, on Friday.

Indiana is one of five states states that does not have a hate crime law.

Back in 2017, Brandon Savage walked into Olly's Bar and said, "you know what happened in Orlando? It's happening now."

Thankfully that didn't happen here.

In Orlando, however, 49 people were killed inside the Pulse Nightclub. Many targeted because they were gay.

Savage was not charged with a hate crime because Indiana does not have that law.

Marion County Prosecutor, Terry Curry, is a strong advocate for the hate crime law. He says it will make a difference.

Savage pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and was sentenced to 6 years probation in a mental health component. He could not have any weapons and could not go within a 2 mile radius of Olly's.

But if there was a hate crime law more could have been done.

"A bias crime would be an explicit aggravating circumstance," Curry said. "It would allow the court to impose a higher sentence based on the fact that the crime was committed based upon hate or bias."

Opponents - including some conservative groups - say the hate crime law is unconscionable because it makes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories.

"The best way to write this law is to simply let the judge enhance the sentence for everybody instead of creating these politically correct categories that get fuzzy and difficult and politicized," Micah Clark, with American Family Association of Indiana.

Governor Eric Holcomb is on record in favor of a hate crime law and business people say it would be good for economic development.

The African American Coalition of Indianapolis has another view.

"This isn't an economic development tool for us," Marshawn Wolley, with the African American Coalition of Indianapolis, said. "This is us being terrorized in our community. There were 55 people who experienced hate crimes in 2017. That impacts them, but impacts the entire community."

Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, says he has been advocating for a hate crime law since 1999.

"We need to do it this year," Rep. Porter said. "I don't think we can wait any longer. If we do we will never get back to this point."

The Indianapolis Urban League is encouraging people to attend the hearing on Monday.