Gathering at Indiana Statehouse calls for hate crimes law

Gurinder Singh, founder and chairman of SikhsPAC USA, said Jan. 12, 2018, "Every human being needs economic opportunity, safety and security, dignity and respect." He spoke at a Statehouse rally calling for a hate crimes law in Indiana. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Dozens of people from different walks of life and organizations from Indiana gathered at the Statehouse to rally for a hate crime law.

Rajesh Patnaik said vandals targeted his family’s Indianapolis business in September 2017, marking it with hurtful graffiti. Patnaik said, “Some of the things were like ‘Hindu traitors,’ ‘Satanists live here.'”

He added that “we were just shocked that somebody would do that to us.”

Patnaik and dozens of people rallied Tuesday morning inside the Statehouse and urged lawmakers to pass a hate crime bill this session.

Gurinder Singh, founder and chairman of SikhsPAC USA, said, “Every human being needs economic opportunity, safety and security, dignity and respect.”

Indiana is one of five states that doesn’t have a law against crimes motivated by biases, such as sexual orientation, religion or race.

Elizabeth Longcore and other advocates at Tuesday’s rally said they feel like 2018 could be the year.

Longcore, with the Indiana Statewide Independent Living Council, said “Really, clarify and actually define what is a hate crime because it manifests itself differently toward people with disabilities.”

Early last year, the Indiana Family Institute spoke out against a state hate crime proposal, saying the bill would politicize crimes. But, it is legislation that Marion County’s Prosecuting Attorney continues to push for.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said, “If it’s vandalism, if it’s battery — no matter what the crime — if it’s motivated by hate, by bias, then what this bill does is allows the court to impose a more severe sentence.”

Curry said this is the third year his office has advocated for the law.

“For us, we as a state send a countervailing message that we’re not going to tolerate this, that this is unacceptable and we’re going to treat it more severely than we might have otherwise,” Curry said.

Curry said supporters have gotten some encouraging signs that this might be the year.