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Will Lawmakers Advance Hate Crime Legislation This Session?

Indiana statehouse

Photo: Paul (Flickr)

The General Assembly likely won't pass a hate crimes law this session.

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.

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