INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana is recognized for the phrase “Hoosier Hospitality,” but after a move by Senate Republicans, this phrase seems meaningless. By stripping the Senate’s bias crimes proposal of the list of protected classes, such as race, religion, color, sex, gender identity, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation or age, Republicans again showed this hospitality only extends to certain individuals. Senate Bill (SB) 12 is now nothing more than smoke and mirrors, and does not remove Indiana from the list of five states without a hate crimes law. The new language in this bill is a disappointing statement on the values of our state.

Out of the 45 states that have a hate crimes law, all of them include a list of protected characteristics. Why are the 33 Republicans that voted to gut SB 12 scared of protecting all Hoosiers? What is so scary about saying if you commit a crime against someone because of their race, that won’t be tolerated in Indiana? After all, an Indiana Chamber poll showed that 74 percent of Hoosiers support such a bill. These lists of traits are already used in our laws regarding housing discrimination and employment discrimination.

Hate crimes in our state are a growing problem that must be directly addressed. The FBI released that 55 hate crimes were committed in Indiana in 2017. However, that number is far below reality because only nine of Indiana’s 92 counties reported these crimes. Given this, the Republicans also astonishingly removed from the bill the requirement for police departments to report these types of crimes. When we refuse to specify what bias looks like, and we refuse to even report it, we are telling our friends, our neighbors, our fellow church goers and even our kids that we don’t care about the crimes committed against them.  

My fellow Senate Democrats and I are not alone in this disappointment. Corporations such as the Indy 500, Old National, Salesforce and Indy Chamber were overwhelmingly in support of the original version of SB 12 and showed their support in the form of testimony in the committee hearing. Without clear, concise and inclusive language, businesses are left to question whether they should continue to operate in our state. Others are left questioning if they can recruit the talent they need, while entrepreneurs watching our politics of exclusiveness are apprehensive to come here in the first place. The economic impact will be felt like it was when the supermajority passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) a few years ago, resulting in Gen Con, Salesforce, Angie’s List and Apple all speaking out against the discriminatory proposal. Angie’s List went as far as to halt construction of their Indianapolis based headquarters after the passage of that bill. If businesses, corporations and sports associations do not feel like their workers are safe here, then Indiana will feel the devastating economic effects of another discriminatory bill.

With the amount of hate crimes on the rise we must take a strong stance to ensure that Hoosiers feel protected here in Indiana. Intentionally watering down a bill meant to protect Hoosiers protects no one. Indiana Senate Democrats have been working towards meaningful hate crimes legislation for six years and we will continue that fight. The amended version of SB 12 is not what Hoosiers want and, it is not the best we can do to protect Indiana. Call the House of Representatives at 800-232-9400 and the governor at 317-232-4567 and urge them to restore SB 12 to its original state.