Indiana Senate panel delays vote on hate crime bill

Supporters of a hate crime bill hold signs Nov. 21, 2017, at the Indiana Statehouse. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP/WISH) — An Indiana Senate committee delayed voting on legislation targeting hate crimes.

The move by Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee Chairman Mike Young comes after an emotionally charged hearing on Tuesday. Young says time is needed to work on proposed changes.

The hearing featured testimony from the mother of an African-American teen who was beaten during a racially motivated attack near Fort Wayne in June. Her testimony came one day after her son’s attacker was sentenced to 30 days in detention.

Bills targeting hate crimes have failed in recent years. Indiana is one of just five states without laws against crimes motivated by biases such as race, gender and sexual orientation.

Opponents, including social conservatives, say hate crime laws create special protected classes that treat victims of similar crimes differently.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, who testified to the committee Tuesday, issued this statement:

“We have continually noted that 45 states and the Federal government have a hate crime statute of one form or another. I agree that we should not enact a law solely because the majority of other states have done so. However, it occurred to me that the pertinent question is why have 45 states enacted such laws? Battery, arson, vandalism, and other acts are obviously crimes in those jurisdictions. Why have 45 states added an additional penalty if that arson is motivated by hate or prejudice? To me, the answer is obvious. It is a collective statement of policy and principle that we will stand with those who have been attacked because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristic. If we are one people, then we should never tolerate an attack on a fellow individual solely because of who they are.”

The Central Indiana Alliance Against Hate also issued a statement calling on action from the committee.