Senate Democrats have worked diligently to remove Indiana from the list of only five states without a bias crimes law. State Senator Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) has stood on the frontlines of this effort, drafting and advocating for bias crimes legislation for six consecutive years, only to be repeatedly blocked by the supermajority. This year, however, it appeared that a meaningful bias crimes bill would finally be produced by the Senate in the form of Senate Bill (SB) 12.
The proposal, after being amended in committee by Sen. Taylor, would have established a bias crimes law that protects victims who are targeted based on actual or perceived characteristics such as race, religion, color, sex, gender identity, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation or age. SB 12 was approved by the Senate Public Policy Committee Monday morning with a strong bipartisan vote of 9-1. This specific, comprehensive and inclusive list offered clear instructions for judges and was widely supported by Senate Democrats, Governor Holcomb, Indiana businesses and 74 percent of Hoosiers.
On Tuesday, SB 12 was called before the full Senate, and the list of characteristics that was included in the bill was inexplicably stripped away by Senate Republicans. The comprehensive legislation that provided protection to all Hoosiers was completely eviscerated. Not only did Republicans remove any chance for judges to follow clear guidelines when sentencing crimes committed due to bias, but they sent the irrefutable message that they do not care about the voices of Hoosiers across the state that are asking for this legislation.
People in Indiana called for a true bias crimes law that protects those who have historically endured systematic oppression. Community advocates, faith leaders and even businesses have made the same call. By removing this list from the bill, Republicans have ignored the wishes of Hoosiers. And worse, they have disregarded the lives of people in marginalized communities, minimized the hate and violence they still face and conveyed that the oppression they have experienced for their immutable characteristics means nothing.
Senate Republicans responded to our pleas on the floor with unfettered apathy, choosing to pass a useless bill that did not include the critical list of protected classes. They have painted Indiana as an unwelcoming state and implied that we are not capable of developing an inclusive bias crimes law. SB 12 could have been an assurance to Hoosiers that Indiana cares about each of its citizens. Now it is a hollow shell with no substance that offers no protection to Hoosiers, no guidance for judges and no progress for Indiana.
What Senate Republicans have done is shameful and disappointing, and it must be corrected. It is time for Hoosiers to come together and demand that their voices be heard. SB 12 will now go to the House of Representatives where it may, hopefully, be restored to its former acceptable status. Call your representatives in the House at (800) 232-9400 and Governor Holcomb at (317) 232-4567 and tell them to add the list of protected characteristics back into SB 12. It’s time to do what’s right, and officially remove Indiana from the embarrassing list of five states without a true bias crimes law.
Sen. Lonnie Randolph Sen. Eddie Melton
Sen. Karen Tallian Sen. David Niezgodski
Sen. Frank Mrvan