By David Denson, Gary Crusader
Following the vandalizing of an Indiana synagogue last weekend Governor Eric Holcomb on Monday said he will support hate crime legislation.
“No law can stop evil, but we should be clear that our state stands with the victims and their voices will not be silenced,” said Holcomb in a statement earlier this week.
“For that reason, it is my intent that we get something done this next legislative session, so Indiana can be 1of 46 states with hate crime legislation -and not 1of 5 states without it.”
Previous attempts to get such a bill through the legislature have failed due to opposition from conservative Republican members in the legislature.
Holcomb will be meeting with lawmakers, and legal strategists, corporate and community leaders, to get a consensus on the legislation.
House Republican Speaker Brian Bosma issued a statement in which he calls the recent vandalism sickening and disheartening but was noncommittal on the hate crime bill.
“Indiana judges already have the ability to enhance sentences based on criminal motivation when presented with evidence of bias, but perhaps more needs to be done to clarify and highlight this existing provision,” said Bosma.
Not all Republicans oppose the bill. Senator Sue Glick not only supports the bill, she has on several occasions sponsored legislation herself.
The last bill that she sponsored would have allowed the motivation behind a crime to give a tougher sentence within the maximum allowed.
The biggest opposition to the bill has come from the religious right who oppose gay marriage and gender issues. Many of them in expressing their opposition feel it encroaches on the first amendment right to free speech.
Democrats, while applauding the governor’s stance are not claiming victory just yet.
“The governor announcing his support is one thing. Getting the Republican majorities in both House and Senate to act is another. To date, we have that level of commitment,” said House Democratic Leader Terry Goodin.
“People in Indiana have made it clear that we need a hate crime law. They want justice against the evil act of prejudice,” Goodin added.
NAACP Indiana State Chapter President Barbara Boling said she supports Holcomb’s efforts and feels it is a travesty and shame that previous governors didn’t support hate crime legislation. “If they had done so we would be much further along in this state,” said Boling.
In 2016, a bias crimes bill passed in the Indiana Senate, and later died in the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee.
In 2017, according to data from the annual state report there were 78 cases of hate crimes reported. However, that number may be higher, due to many law enforcement agencies not submitting hate crime data.