By Ashley Steeb
INDIANAPOLIS — Judges would have the right to consider bias motivation when deciding a perpetrator’s punishment if a hate crimes bill becomes law.
Sen. Susan Glick’s, R-LaGrange, bill about hate crimes passed and will be considered by the Senate. Photo by Ashley Steeb, TheStatehouseFile.com
“This is an attempt, if you will, to allow judges, that we elect that the people elect, prosecutors, which the people elect, to apply factors in closing sentence on people who have committed crimes,” said Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, author of Senate Bill 438 author.
The bill, which passed with a 6-3 vote, would allow judges to enhance a defendant’s sentence if it was determined that the crime was committed because of the victim’s religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender. The enhancement would be within the sentencing range of crime already prescribed by law.
Indiana is one of five states without hate crimes legislation. Similar bills have failed in previous legislative sessions.
Most of those in attendance at the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee Tuesday supported SB 438, including Rima Shahid, executive director of Muslim Alliance of Indiana. She said a hate crimes bill would ensure a sense of safety for everyone.
“It’s not up for debate the vast majority of Hoosiers are peace loving and tolerant,” Shahid said. “It’s not up for debate that such acts are the exception and not the norm, but so are most crimes. Most crimes are an exception.”
She also said one of the reasons bias crimes are underreported is because the victim is afraid of being targeted again.
David Slaughter, representing the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Coalition, said these forms of crimes not only affect the victim, but can intimidate an entire group of people who share the victim’s characteristics.
Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, voted against the bill because he said crimes should be treated equally. He cited arson as an example – whether a person burns down a garage or sets fire to a cross, both are crimes and should be treated equally under the law.
“We got problems in our country,” Tomes said. “I don’t believe segmenting certain ones out, with good intentions, and leaving other ones outside that protection or recognition is the way to do it.”
Micah Clark, state affiliate of American Family Association, said the bill is focusing on the emotion and not on crime prevention or justice.
SB 438 will move to the full Senate for further consideration.
Ashley Steeb is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.