INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed legislation Wednesday aimed at getting
Indiana off a list of five states without a hate crimes law, saying that the
conservative Midwestern state has “made progress and taken a strong stand
against targeted violence.”
governor signed the measure into law one day after the GOP-dominated state
Senate voted 34-14 to approve the bill’s bias crimes language. Several
Democratic senators urged its defeat, saying it falls short of what’s needed
because its language does not explicitly cover age, sex or gender identity.
The bill’s passage
and Holcomb’s signing it into law comes after repeated attempts to pass a
bias crimes law in Indiana failed amid fierce opposition from conservatives
who said it would unfairly create specially-protected classes of victims and
wrongly restrict free speech.
Holcomb had pushed
for more comprehensive legislation with an enumerated list of traits that
include gender and gender identity. But he and other Republicans argued that
the measure covers all 6.6 million Hoosiers because it covers all
characteristics and traits, whether expressly listed or not.
Holcomb said in a
statement after signing the legislation, which takes effect July 1, that
“our goal was to achieve a comprehensive law that protects those who are the
targets of bias crimes, and we have accomplished just that.”
“We have made
progress and taken a strong stand against targeted violence. I am confident
our judges will increase punishment for those who commit crimes motivated by
bias under this law,” he said in his statement.
League lists Indiana as one of five states, along with Georgia, South
Carolina, Wyoming and Arkansas, without hate crimes protections.
whether the law will result in Indiana being removed from that list. The ADL
said Friday that the legislation “does not meet our standard for a real and
effective hate crimes bill in 2019.”
Jessica Gall, the
co-Interim regional director of ADL Midwest, did not immediately reply to
messages left Wednesday asking whether the new law is sufficient to get
Indiana off its list.
But Gall said in a
statement earlier Wednesday that the ADL does not consider Indiana’s law “to
be an adequate hate crimes law.”
“The failure to
explicitly list gender identity, gender, or sex is unacceptable. In
addition, the overbroad and vague language of SB 198 dilutes the
legislation’s ostensible intent and prevents it from being a real hate
crimes law,” she said in her statement.
Indiana’s law will
allow judges to impose longer sentences for crimes motivated by bias and
refers to Indiana’s bias crimes reporting statute that mentions color,
creed, disability, national origin, race, religion and sexual orientation,
but doesn’t explicitly cover age, sex or gender identity.
The law, however,
says bias can also be considered due to the “victim’s or the group’s real or
perceived characteristic, trait, belief, practice, association, or other
A former Indiana
Supreme Court justice, Frank Sullivan, Jr., said in a letter he sent
Wednesday to Holcomb that the law’s language “is legally sufficient” to
enable Indiana trial court judges to impose harsher sentences, including
“for a crime committed with bias due to the victim’s gender or gender
“Just because a
characteristic or trait is not specifically listed does not prevent it from
being used to impose a harsher sentence ... Indiana now joins as it should
the mainstream of states in punishing crimes of bias,” wrote Sullivan, who
was appointed to Indiana’s high court in 1993 by Democratic Gov. Evan Bayh
and retired in 2012.
A Senate committee
had passed another hate crimes bill in February, but a few days later the
state Senate stripped out a list of specific protected traits, including
sexual orientation, gender identity and race.
Members of the
House voted 57-39 last week to advance the legislation after new language
was added to an unrelated bill.
House Speaker Brian
Bosma said Tuesday that the legislation “meets or exceeds” bias crimes
statutes on the books in 21 other states “and all of those states are off
the list of states without a bias crimes law.”
reasonable assertion as to why this all-inclusive measure doesn’t take
Indiana off the list,” he said in a statement.
In 2015, then-Gov.
Mike Pence signed a religious protections law that critics widely panned as
sanctioning of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
people. After the state faced boycott threats, lawmakers made changes to the
law to prevent it from being used to justify discrimination against LGBT
people in the state.