INDIANAPOLIS -- It was an intense 90 minutes of testimony at the Indiana Statehouse on Tuesday as those for and against a proposed hate crime bill shared their stories in front of the Senate Committee.
The committee has not yet voted on the bill, saying there are now several amendments that need discussing after that hearing.
One of those who testified, La'Kysha Gardner, is convinced that her 15-year-old son was attacked and left for dead because of his race.
"My son almost lost his life, all because we're African-American and we're from the wrong community," said Gardner.
The current proposal would toughen the penalties under state law for crimes that are committed with the intent to harm or intimidate a person based on "certain perceived or actual characteristics of the individual."
That includes factors like religion, gender identity and ethnicity.
Gardner supports a hate crime bill in Indiana, but she also thinks the current bill doesn't go far enough to protect people. She says it should also mandate training for police in handling crimes that are motivated by hate.
She shared her son's story to show legislators how serious hate crimes can be and the impact they have on the victims and their families.
The mother of six said it wasn't long after she had moved her family to the Fort Wayne area from Illinois that another boy started threatening her son.
"Every name in the book he called him," said Gardner. "He called him the N-word and told him to go back to Africa or his mother would be next."
Gardener said her son was attacked on June 5 in their mobile home community. She shared photos at the hearing showing burns, scratches and bruises all over his body from the attack.
"My child laid by himself - beaten and alone," she said.
She testified in front of the Senate on Tuesday, because she believes the teen responsible for attacking her son did not receive a punishment that matches the crime he committed.
"I sat in a courtroom yesterday and I watched a man who almost killed my child receive 30 days and probation," said Gardner. "Is that the going rate now for hate?"
Indiana is one of only five states without any hate crime laws in place. Supporters of the bill, like Amiya Amin with the Muslim Alliance, say the proposed legislation would put it in line with the other 45 and send a message.
"It is about allowing our children to grow up in an Indiana where they can be proud of who they are instead of hiding their identity out of fear," said Amin.
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