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Gov. Holcomb Backs Hate Crimes Bill

Gov. Eric Holcomb (R-Ind.) (Zach Herndon, WFIU/WTIU News)

Governor Eric Holcomb announced Monday he’ll support hate crimes legislation in the 2019 session. The move comes after someone spray painted anti-Semitic graffiti on a Carmel synagogue over the weekend.

Legislation to increase penalties for crimes committed because of a victim’s characteristics – such as race, religion, and gender identity – failed for years. But now Holcomb says he’ll work to find consensus on the issue ahead of the 2019 session.

Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council Assistant Director David Sklar helps lead the push for a hate crimes bill. He says Holcomb’s support is a big boost.

“Not only solidifies the bipartisan nature of the legislation, but obviously helps to limit the sort of partisan acrimony that I think has infused the conversation a little bit,” Sklar says.

Attorney General Curtis Hill also released an op-ed in support of members of the synagogue and calling for hate crimes legislation, including steeper penalties for hate crimes.

“I stand willing to work with the General Assembly to pass hate crimes legislation that works and can be supported by all,” Hill says in the piece. “As evidenced by the weekend’s sad events in Carmel, the time to take action is now.”

Hill is proposing an increase of two to six years in sentencing for misdemeanors and low-level felonies, and an increase of six to 20 years for higher-level felonies.

Watch Indiana Newsdesk’s Joe Hren talk with Indiana Sen. Greg Taylor on what to expect next:

Republican religious conservative opposition helped defeat the legislation in recent years.

Indiana is one of five states without a hate crimes law.

In a statement, Holcomb says he’ll be meeting with stakeholders to figure out how Indiana can move forward on the issue.

“No law can stop evil, but we should be clear that our state stands with the victims and their voices will not be silenced,” Holcomb says in a statement. “For that reason it is my intent that we get something done this next legislative session, so Indiana can be 1 of 46 states with hate crimes legislation and not one of five states without it.”

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