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Indiana lawmakers decide not to hear hate crime bill



INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers have decided not to hear a hate crime bill this session.

After a week of discussing the bill in caucus, state legislators said they could not agree on language for Senate Bill 418. Party leadership decided Tuesday morning not to hear the bill in committee. 

The bill would have made a crime committed on the basis of characteristics of an individual — such as race, gender, sexual orientation or religion — an aggravating circumstance, which increases the severity of a resulting penalty. It would have also required law enforcement to report bias crimes to the FBI.

"In the end, we weren’t able to find common ground," President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said.

Long said the decision not to move forward has nothing to do with lawmakers not caring about bias crimes. It was simply because lawmakers could not agree on language to push the bill forward.

Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, an author of the bill, said she was disappointed the issue would not be addressed this session but that she did not want to push a bill through that did not include language lawmakers in both parties and chambers could agree on.

She said it's important Indiana protects all citizens and continues to remain empathetic.

"When it comes to hate, when it comes to bias, I think it’s very important that we protect all our citizens," Glick said. "I think that’s something we cannot emphasize too much."

Long explained why some people could not support the bill as is. He said some felt there was already case precedent in Indiana that protects people from bias crimes. Others thought the bill did not go far enough.

The bill lists characteristics that would determine what would be considered a hate crime. The list included race, gender and religion, among others. Glick said she believes the list was all-inclusive. Some opponents of the bill, however, did not believe the list went far enough.

Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee Chairman, said lawmakers tried to be as inclusive as they could but had trouble finding language that would satisfy both sides of the debate.

“Our people are concerned about protecting everyone and being as inclusive as we can in that protection," he said.

Democrats had put passing a hate crime law high on their agenda this session. Indiana is currently one of five states that does not have a hate crime law. Groups across Indiana have pushed for a hate crime law in the state.

The failure to hear a bill rings similar to last session when a hate crime bill also failed.  This was the fourth attempt in recent years to pass similar legislation.

About 100 people gathered in the Statehouse two weeks ago to rally for the passage of a hate crime law, saying enough was enough.

“We are fed up,” said Trevor Baldwin, a member of the Indiana Association of the Deaf, at the event. “The time is now to move forward and progress.”

While the bill did not make its way through this session, lawmakers said they are confident a hate crime bill will pass in the future. 

"We want to find a solution that finds common ground for all Hoosiers," Long said. "We’ll continue to roll up our sleeves and find an answer."

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