February 18, 2019

Hate Crimes Bill Clears First Legislative Hurdle

Original story from   IPBS-RJC

Article origination IPBS-RJC
The Senate Public Policy Committee considers testimony on a hate crimes bill.  - (Brandon Smith/IPB News)

The Senate Public Policy Committee considers testimony on a hate crimes bill.

(Brandon Smith/IPB News)

A Senate committee approved hate crimes legislation Monday for the third time in four years.

The three-hour hearing featured little new information in the debate.

Those on both sides of the hate crimes issue spoke passionately. But they were the same arguments – from many of the same people – as in Statehouse debates that have been held for years now.

Against the bill are conservative and religious activist groups. The Indiana Pastors Alliance’s Ron Johnson claims the measure punishes thought.

“We immediately weaponize the state to punish everybody who wants to speak out against what they happen to disagree with,” Johnson says.

But the bill would only be used if someone commits an existing crime; it does not create new offenses.

Prominent conservative attorney James Bopp argues the bill isn't necessary. He says existing law allows judges to consider any factor when sentencing an offender, including bias.

And Republican activist Robert Hall delivered a warning.

"I am concerned that if this bill passes, the conservative base will not vote for Gov. Holcomb for re-election next year," Hall says. "It could even hurt other Republican candidates."

Those for the measure are mostly in two categories: those who are often victims of bias crimes, and the business community.

Monica Valadezza is a trans woman who's been the victim of assault. She says transgender Hoosiers are targets of hate crimes.

"We are people," Valadezza says. "Real human beings who deserve the same protections from hateful violence as everyone else."

Business leaders, like Cummins Vice President Marya Rose, say passing a hate crimes bill is about talent recruitment.

“Please send a message to the world that we are a state that welcomes diversity and protects all people,” Rose says.

The bill now heads to the Senate floor.

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