House Republicans Pass Hate Crimes Amendment Without Public Input

Mar 26, 2019

The Indiana House voted on a floor amendment Monday that would create hate crimes protections in state law.

But that came with no public record of how individual lawmakers voted and means the public won’t have a voice in the process.

The amendment says a judge can impose a harsher sentence if the crime was motivated by bias against a victim’s traits, beliefs, or associations. It also references a list of victim characteristics already in state law – a list that includes race, religion and sexual orientation, but doesn’t include sex, age or gender identity.

Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Danville) is adamant about his proposed language.

“Nobody is left out of this bill,” Steuerwald says.

But House Democrats argue it’s not inclusive enough. Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis) says the goal of a hate crimes measure shouldn’t just be to get Indiana off the list of five states without such a law.

“It’s coming off the list in a meaningful way,” Porter says.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, who had previously said a hate crimes law without specific protections for gender identity would fall short, endorsed the amendment in a statement. 

“I support and appreciate the action taken by the House today. This measure covers all forms of bias crimes and treats all people equally," Holcomb said in a statement. "Now, we need to make sure we get to the finish line and move Indiana off the list of states without a bias crimes law.”

Indiana Forward, the leading group advocating for a hate crimes statute says the language “falls far short” of what the state needs. One of the most strident opponents of a hate crimes bill – the American Family Association of Indiana – calls the House amendment a “big win.”

The House approved the amendment in what’s called a “voice vote” – meaning members shouted out their vote en masse, without a record of which individual lawmakers voted for or against.