Groups Claim New Indiana Hate Crime Law Not Effective

("Indiana Statehouse" by Shawna Pierson, CC BY 2.0)

(INDIANAPOLIS) – 30 civil rights groups say the hate crime bill passed by the Indiana Senate isn’t a hate crime bill at all.

The Anti-Defamation League and the Human Rights Campaign keep track of hate crime laws in all 50 states. Indiana and the four other states without a law make up what Governor Holcomb has labeled “the naughty list,” and much of the debate at the statehouse has centered on whether a law which didn’t specify targeted victim groups would be enough to get the state off the list.

Until now, the A-D-L hadn’t weighed in directly. But a letter to Holcomb, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray makes clear the groups would still list Indiana as not having a hate crime law if it passes a Senate bill with just a general reference to “bias. The groups say that version “could actually cause harm.” They say the lack of a list would “marginalize communities of color” and minority religions.

Bosma won’t comment directly on the A-D-L letter — he says he’s focused on passing a bill that gets Indiana off the list. Since January, Bosma has consistently advocated a bill which doesn’t include a list of groups, but goes a little further than the Senate version, allowing judges to impose longer sentences for crimes motivated by bias against any “characteristic, belief, practice or association.” The A-D-L letter doesn’t address that proposal.

Every state with a hate crime law except Utah includes a list of covered groups, and the Utah Senate this week passed a bill adding a list. Utah prosecutors, and the A-D-L letter, say the current law has proven unenforceable.

Besides Utah, every state hate crime law lists race, religion and ethnicity as potential hate-crime targets. 10 other categories show up in at least one state law.