INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has voiced his support for hate crime legislation after anti-Semitic graffiti was found at a Carmel synagogue over the weekend but Democratic leaders are calling on Holcomb and the rest of the Republican majority to stop talking and start acting.
The response follows the discovery of swastikas and iron crosses painted on a shed and garbage bins at Congregation Shaarey Tefilla in the 3000 block of W. 116th Street in Carmel on Saturday.
Indiana is one of five states without a hate crime law. The others are Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Wyoming.
Monday morning Gov. Holcomb announced his intention to file a hate crime law during the next legislative session.
"I think it's long overdue that we move forward as a state," said Holcomb. "I want to be one of 46, not one of five."
Holcomb also released a statement Monday morning:
"No law can stop evil, but we should be clear that our state stands with the victims and their voices will not be silenced.
For that reason it is my intent that we get something done this next legislative session, so Indiana can be 1 of 46 states with hate crimes legislation—and not 1 of 5 states without it.
I’ll be meeting with lawmakers, legal minds, corporate leaders and citizens of all stripes who are seeking to find consensus on this issue so that, once and for all, we can move forward as a state."
Indiana House Democratic Leader Terry Goodin issued a statement Monday afternoon supporting Gov. Holcomb’s call for a hate crime law and asked him to follow through with it.
“I am delighted to see that Gov. Holcomb recognizes the importance of acting, and has announced he will pursue hate crimes legislation in the 2019 session. I join him in that call,” said Goodin. “But this is Indiana, where we find it easier to talk about stopping hate crimes instead of actually doing something about it.”
“The governor announcing his support is one thing. Getting the Republican majorities in both the House and Senate to act is another,” said Goodin. “To date, we have not seen that level of commitment. Hate crimes laws are introduced with great fanfare, only to die out when Republican lawmakers start dithering about lists and existing case law and all the things that make it easier to delay the discussion for another session.”
Read Goodin's full statement below:
“So we find ourselves in another situation where crimes are committed by cowards who did not like the religion practiced by a group of people. They did not have the courage to reveal their identities, so their true beliefs can be revealed for all the world to see.
In my field of education, this is what would be called a teaching moment. The natural starting point would be a discussion of the need for a hate crimes law in Indiana, which is one of only five states that doesn’t have a law that targets crimes committed because of race, color, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation.
I am delighted to see that Gov. Holcomb recognizes the importance of acting, and has announced he will pursue hate crimes legislation in the 2019 session. I join him in that call.
But this is Indiana, where we find it easier to talk about stopping hate crimes instead of actually doing something about it.
The governor announcing his support is one thing. Getting the Republican majorities in both the House and Senate to act is another.
To date, we have not seen that level of commitment. Hate crimes laws are introduced with great fanfare, only to die out when Republican lawmakers start dithering about lists and existing case law and all the things that make it easier to delay the discussion for another session.
The people of Indiana have made it clear that we need a hate crimes law. They want justice against the evil acts of a prejudiced few.
How many more heinous acts like this are needed before we finally do something? That’s the real question here. I am cautiously optimistic after the governor’s announcement, but we are a long way from getting something done.”
Attorney General Curtis Hill released an op-ed Monday renewing his call for legislation establishing steeper penalties for crimes motivated by a desire to intimidate or terrorize, not just crimes considered "hate crimes."
My proposal differs from many other so-called hate-crimes proposals in that it avoids entirely the exercise of separating “protected groups” from “non-protected.” Why should some groups receive greater protection from hateful conduct than others? Designating specific groups to be “protected” necessarily implies the existence of other groups that are not.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry called for a hate crime law in the state last year.
"Having [a hate crime law] in our statute would allow prosecutors to seek higher penalties for hate-motivated criminal acts which have a greater effect on the safety and well-being of the public at large," Curry said in a statement.
Hate crime legislation was also discussed in this year’s legislative session but was shot down.
“In the end, we were unable to come to a consensus on how to approach this issue," Senate President Pro Tempore David Long said at the time. "Some members felt that making a list in Indiana code would inevitably leave someone off, some felt the bill was fine as it was, and some felt that Indiana code already allows the aggravator concept to apply in a bias-crime situation, which is true."
A study committee will look at the issues and identify the proposals that will be used to create a hate crime bill to be presented in January’s legislative session.
"This summer, the Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code will take another look at the issue of bias-motivated crimes and identify opportunities for legislative consensus,” said Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma. “Indiana judges already have the ability to enhance sentences based on a criminal’s motivation when presented with evidence of bias, but perhaps more needs to be done to clarify and highlight this existing provision."
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