Bill to enhance sentences with list of protected characteristics heads to governor

Indiana News

UPDATE

From News 8’s David Williams: Senate Bill 198, a bill that gives judges the ability to enhance sentences with a specific list of protected characteristics, has passed the Senate and now officially heads directly to Gov. Eric Holcomb to be signed into law. The list of characteristics does not include gender identity, gender and age.

NEW: Governor will sign bill seeking sentence enhancements for hate crimes

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Demands for equal protection Monday filled the Statehouse as people made their voices heard. 

They wanted three specific words put back into the a crime sentencing bill. Last week, House lawmakers passed the bill with a new list of protected characteristics added to it

“This is a matter of life and death,” Kimberly Acoff of Indianapolis said. 

Less than a month ago, Acoff, who is a transgender woman, was out to eat near her home when she says someone hurled hateful words at her. 

“You can’t believe this sort of thing is happening in 2019,” Acoff said.

Which is why Acoff, along with members of Women4Change Indiana, and many others came to the Statehouse.

“Without these three characteristics — gender identity, gender and age — we’re not going to have a complete hate crimes law here in Indiana, and that’s what we need,” said Alysa Villelli with Women4Change.

RELATED: LGBTQ advocates call for passage of U.S. Equality Act

Last week, Republican State Rep. Matt Lehman said he believes the new amended sentencing bill “protects all Hoosiers, any characteristic, any trait.”  

On Monday, Democrats and other Republicans said the sentencing bill with the list of protected characteristics added to it is not acceptable. Indiana remains one of five states without a hate crimes law. 

State Sen. Jean Breaux, a Democrat from Indianapolis, said, “This is not a hate crimes law. This does not remove us from the list. This is a delusion. This is cowardice, and it has to stop.” 

State Sen. Ron Alting, a Republican from Lafayette, said, “What’s the problem with adding gender identity, sex and age? And maybe a few others … if your bill’s so great.” 

Alting was an author of a hate crimes bill that on Feb. 21 was amended in the Indiana Senate and never advanced further. That amendment left the hate crimes bill without a list of characteristics including race, age, religion, gender identity and sexual orientation. Those voting 39-10 against the amended bill included its authors. 

Gov. Eric Holcomb said, as people rallied Monday at the Statehouse, that he thinks gender and gender identity need to be put back into the sentencing bill. 

“I have pushed for that,” Holcomb said. “They need to demand a change of opinion in the legislature if they want to amend that language into this, whether it be this year or in years to come.” 

RELATED COVERAGE: Victim’s family speaks out in ‘road rage hate crime’ | Faith leaders: Put list back in Indiana hate crimes billIndiana employers urge passage of comprehensive hate crime law | Do hate crime laws work? Indiana University study says, ‘It’s complicated’

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