Indiana’s proposed hate crimes legislation won’t advance in the House and could be dead for the session.
The General Assembly has long resisted enacting a hate crimes law and will likely leave the Hoosier State one of only five in the country without one.
This year’s version of a hate crimes bill doesn’t create a new law that punishes a person’s motivation for committing a crime. Instead, it makes that an enhancement during sentencing. Essentially, if a person commits a crime based in part because of the victim’s characteristics, such as age, race, sexual orientation or gender identity, a judge could use that factor to increase the penalty.
The bill won’t get a hearing in the House after easily clearing the Senate.
House Chairman Rep. Tom Washburne, R-Evansville, says there are too many other bills in his committee. And he notes that state law doesn’t limit what a judge considers during sentencing.
“[A] Judge can already look at that. With 20 bills in Courts and Criminal, I just had to make a decision about which ones we could hear and which ones we wouldn’t hear,” says Washburne.
Bill sponsor Rep. Randy Truitt, R-West Lafayette, hinted that controversy this session surrounding LGBT rights – and the inclusion in the bill of sexual orientation and gender identity – might have contributed to its failure in the House.
“It’s a topic that – unfortunately because of the atmosphere that we’re dealing in right now – is, I don’t think, getting a fair shake,” says Truitt.
The hates crimes language could be included in another bill before the end of session, but Washburne wouldn’t commit to supporting such a move.