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House Republicans Pass Hate Crimes Amendment Without Public Input

The Indiana House Chamber.

The Indiana House Chamber (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

The Indiana House voted on a floor amendment Monday that would create hate crimes protections in state law.

But that came with no public record of how individual lawmakers voted and means the public won’t have a voice in the process.

The amendment says a judge can impose a harsher sentence if the crime was motivated by bias against a victim’s traits, beliefs, or associations. It also references a list of victim characteristics already in state law – a list that includes race, religion and sexual orientation, but doesn’t include sex, age or gender identity.

Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Danville) is adamant about his proposed language.

“Nobody is left out of this bill,” Steuerwald says.

But House Democrats argue it’s not inclusive enough. Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis) says the goal of a hate crimes measure shouldn’t just be to get Indiana off the list of five states without such a law.

“It’s coming off the list in a meaningful way,” Porter says.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, who had previously said a hate crimes law without specific protections for gender identity would fall short, endorsed the amendment in a statement. 

“I support and appreciate the action taken by the House today. This measure covers all forms of bias crimes and treats all people equally," Holcomb said in a statement. "Now, we need to make sure we get to the finish line and move Indiana off the list of states without a bias crimes law.”

Indiana Forward, the leading group advocating for a hate crimes statute says the language “falls far short” of what the state needs. One of the most strident opponents of a hate crimes bill – the American Family Association of Indiana – calls the House amendment a “big win.”

The House approved the amendment in what’s called a “voice vote” – meaning members shouted out their vote en masse, without a record of which individual lawmakers voted for or against.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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