By Katie Stancombe
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana will continue to be one of five states without a law addressing hate crimes after a bill that would have changed that was killed on the Senate floor Monday.
If passed into law, Senate Bill 439 would have allowed Hoosier judges to consider enhancing criminal sentences based if a crime was intentionally committed because of a victim’s religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender.
Sen. Greg Taylor, R-Indianapolis, argued that the bill would protect all Hoosiers from discrimination. Photo by Katie Stancombe, TheStatehouseFile.com
But author of the bill, Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, stated in a statement that she would not move the legislation forward, letting it die on the Senate floor.
“After discussions with my colleagues, it has become apparent that there is a difference of opinion on various potential amendments to the bill, making it difficult to find consensus on a path forward,” Glick said.
But Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, expressed his frustration with the bill’s death, arguing that it would protect all Hoosiers and not discriminate, regardless of gender, religion, or sexual identity.
“Our founding fathers would be upset at us right now,” Taylor said. “They knew this was going to happen. I just hope that one day we open up our eyes. I just hope its not after something dramatic happens. And I’m telling you it’s on the horizon.”
Taylor also said the Senate should be ashamed for not acting on the legislation now, after discussing this issue for the past four years.
“Shame on us for not acting,” Taylor said. “Shame on us because we can do study groups and everything else on hypotheticals, but things that happen in our backyard we do nothing about.”
Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, said that this is not a bias crime bill.
“The purpose and idea behind this bill was if some person for whatever their thoughts, beliefs, the way they look at people, react to people, if they use that in a matter to harm somebody, the court can take that information and give them a longer sentence,” Young said.
He said the question at hand is not the content of the bill, but what are the proper words to use in the legislation.
“Sometimes legislation that is important is not done quickly,” Young said. “It takes time and thoughtful process to find out what is the right way to do this.”
Young said that he doesn’t think anyone in the Senate believes that any person has the right to harm another based on their origin, religion or sexual identity.
“We all oppose that,” Young said. “The question is – which route should we take to protect our citizens and get towards some way of making a decision, a determination, of whether a person should receive a higher sentence than what’s in the guidelines.”
But Senate Minority leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said he was disappointed with the bill’s death.
“This bill was so reasonable,” Lanane said. “I’m very sorry that we couldn’t find the courage in this body to take this matter out, up or down, which ever way it should’ve been considered.”
Glick said she would continue to work on the issue in the coming months and hopes to bring back the legislation next year.
The other states that do not have laws concerning hate crimes are Arkansas, Wyoming, Georgia and South Carolina. Bills similar to SB 439 have failed in previous legislative sessions.
Katie Stancombe is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.