THE NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Existing law supplants ‘list’ stripped from Indiana hate crimes bill

If you believe everything you read in the media throughout Indiana, you may think our General Assembly is led by a Republican majority of racist, homophobic legislators.

The topic is a hate crimes bill making its way through the Indiana Legislature in an effort from Democrats and others caught up in the hysteria of identity politics to make us like the majority of other states with hate crimes laws.

We’ve written here previously that Indiana law already has provisions for judges to enhance sentences for any victim of crimes of bias, and that a more targeted hate crimes law may discriminate in favor of politically favored victims due to race, religion, sexual orientation or gender.

Indiana lawmakers began the second half of the legislative session this week with more than 400 bills still alive, including Senate Bill 12 on hate crimes, which is heading to the House.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana business community have been pushing for a detailed and inclusive hate crimes law.

The Senate advanced SB 12 by a 39-10 vote nearly two weeks ago, but not before passing an amendment that stripped a list of specific protected groups.

Opponents of the amendment argue that specificity is crucial to a hate crimes law. But we say a more general law will protect everyone.

Holcomb said the amended bill fails to get Indiana off the list of five states without a bias crime law.

But we agree with Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, who argues that while “almost every headline and news story implies that their favored groups lost protections,” the fact is that SB 12 “now protects everyone.

“Rather than limit a judge’s ability to extend a sentence in such a crime to a list of politically favored victim categories,” Clark writes, “the Senate affirmed a 2005 state Supreme Court ruling giving judges the widest latitude possible. It was a strong statement for equal justice under the law, rather than stooping to the identity politics that divides our nation.”

Clark insists we should never have been included on the list of states without hate crimes laws because under Indiana Code 10-13-3-1, such legislation has been part of Indiana law since 2003:

“Bias crime” Sec. 1. As used in this chapter, “bias crime” means an offense in which the person who commits the offense knowingly or intentionally: (1) selected the person who was injured; or (2) damaged or otherwise affected property; by the offense because of the color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation of the injured person or owner or occupant of the affected property was associated with any other recognizable group or affiliation. As added by P.L. 2 – 2003.

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPolitics.Org, also cited the Indiana code as an answer to the “problem” of not including a list in SB 12. He argues that “the ‘list’ in the reporting statute could actually help resolve that problem by just making a reference to it in the pending legislation. It is not uncommon for one part of a statute to refer to a provision in another statute.”

Indiana law already protects anyone who might be the victim of a bias or hate crime. We applaud the Senate for recognizing this, and trust that the House will follow suit when it takes up the bill in the remainder of this year’s session.