Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill Wednesday that aims to create hate crime protections.
For decades, Indiana has been one of five states that did not have laws under which hate crimes can be prosecuted. But even now, some are still disappointed with the outcome.
The new law, which takes effect in July, allows judges to impose harsher penalties on criminals who victimize others because of bias. But where the bill references a list of victim characteristics, such as race and religion, it leaves out sex, age and gender identity.
Although Holcomb has said he would prefer a bill with those three characteristics listed, he supports the bill nonetheless.
“Our new law will allow judges to enhance sentences based on listed and non-listed categories," Holcomb said in a statement.
Mindi Goodpaster is one of the leaders of Indiana Forward, a coalition of about 700 groups advocating for a hate crimes law. She said the coalition is disappointed with the new legislation.
“We were hoping for an inclusive law that would include gender and gender identity,” she said. “We are hopeful that the legislature will choose to revisit it and add the missing characteristics in the future.”
Doug Bauder, director of IU’s LGBTQ+ Culture Center, said he thinks the bill is just an attempt to get Indiana off the list of states without hate crime legislation, even though it is limited in scope.
“I guess it’s better than nothing, but it appears to me to be pretty weak,” he said in an email.
Indiana may still be stuck on the list, anyway. The Anti-Defamation League, which keeps track of states without hate crime laws, said the new legislation has to be more specific and comprehensive, according to a March 7 statement.
Sophomore Tasfia Chowdhury, social justice chair of theMuslim Student Association at IU, said even though the legislation is not ideal, she is still grateful for it.
“I think it’s about time,” she said. “Indiana is so behind. I’m glad we are protected, but I want other minority groups to be protected, as well.”
Chowdhury said she does not think the legislation will be effective in deterring hate crimes, but it at least shows minority groups they are supported by the state.
“People that are going to commit crimes like that aren’t going to be stopped by it,” she said. “It’s more of a statement. They know the state isn’t on their side.”
This legislation comes a little over a month after Mustafa Ayoubi, an IU graduate, was killed in what some considered a hate crime.
Chowdhury and the Muslim Student Association organized a vigil last month for Ayoubi, who was killed while driving to a friend’s house in Indianapolis. Witnesses told police the shooter yelled religious and racial insults before killing him, according to court documents.
Although the shooting shook Chowdhury, who said religion is a big part of her life, she said she felt the same about hate crime legislation before and after the incident: It needs to happen.
“The lack of action spoke volumes on what the state's priorities were,” she said. “I don’t think you deserve a ton of applause for something you should’ve done a long time ago.”
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