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Governor will sign bill seeking sentence enhancements for hate crimes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Gov. Eric Holcomb says he will sign a bill, as soon as it gets to his desk, that calls on judges to enhance sentences of convicts in certain kinds of hate crimes. 

In a statement, Holcomb said, in part:

“Those targeted for crimes because of color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation are protected. But this new law goes further. It also will cover bias crimes committed because of other traits and characteristics, such as gender, or gender identity, or sex, or age, and other commonly targeted groups.”

“Our new law will allow judges to enhance sentences based on listed and non-listed categories. Criminals who attempt to instill fear by attacking others based, for example, on who someone loves, who they are, how they identify, how they pray, should know their sentences can, and I believe should, be enhanced to the fullest extent of the law.”

Other Republicans, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Rodric Bray, also issued statements in support of the sentencing enhancements along with the governor’s statement.

The Legislature passed the sentence enhancements rather than creating a hate crimes law. The question: Would sentence enhancement mean Indiana is no longer one of five states without a hate crimes law?

Bosma’s statement said, in part, “The reference to our current bias crime definition meets or exceeds that of 21 other states’ bias crime statutes, and all of those states are off the list of states without a bias crimes law. There’s no reasonable assertion as to why this all-inclusive measure doesn’t take Indiana off the list.”

Democrats were not as convinced. Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane of Anderson said in a statement: 

“I want to remind the (Republican) supermajority that they will not have the opportunity to boast getting Indiana off the short list of states without a hate crimes law. The Anti-Defamation League said themselves that this does not get us off the list.

“The General Assembly had the opportunity to do the right thing here this session, and the Republicans in both chambers neglected their responsibility. It is inexcusable that all Hoosiers are not protected from crimes committed due an age, sex or gender identity bias.”

Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar said the sentencing enhancements are “a big step in the right direction.”

A statement from Brinegar said, in part: “Though the list is not as comprehensive as we had advocated for, what the Legislature has passed is still a meaningful hate crimes bill. It is more inclusive than some states’ laws and on par with others. Not to mention, it’s far better than having no law at all.” 

Brinegar also said, “To those wanting a perfect bias crimes bill that spells out everything, we hear you and we understand; that was our shared goal. While that’s ideal, it was not politically realistic at this time. It has taken the state 25 years to get to this point and in today’s climate, doing nothing wasn’t an option in our view. No one should want to perpetuate a false perception about our state being unwelcoming; that only exacerbates our workforce challenges.”

The Indiana Chamber leader also said his group was “disappointed” the assessment from the Anti-Defamation League. “The legislation contains a list and additional language intended to cover those not specifically spelled out. We strongly encourage the ADL to reassess its position on Indiana’s status and remove the state from the list of those without a hate crimes law.”