One of former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’ favorite lines was “never let perfect be the enemy of good.” Critics of the bias crime legislation headed to current Governor Eric Holcomb’s desk would do well to remember that.
Under the legislation which passed out of the Senate Tuesday, 34-14, bias can be considered due to the “victim’s or the group’s real or perceived characteristic, trait, belief, practice, association, or other attributes …including but not limited to an attribute” in the state’s existing bias crime reporting statute.
That statute expressly mentions color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation. It does not mention gender identity, age or sex.
Because those omissions, critics say because of those ommissions, the legislation falls short. I respectfully disagree.
First, a clear reading of the language makes it clear that it is NOT limited to those enumerated categories. They are included, that’s what the “including but not limited to…” language means. And with as much publicity this issue has received over the last few months, I think it will be pretty clear to judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys, that gender, gender identity, age, and sex are included in that list.
Secondly, and this one is a little more nuanced, it would be nice if all the critics were on the same page because I’m having a little trouble trying to figure them out. For example, Statehouse Democrats argued the bill was not specific enough in offering protections to various categories of Hoosiers, meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League opposed the bill because, in their opinion, it was too broad and didn’t include everyone. Which one is it?
And while we’re at it, the ADL might want to think about amending its own list and removing those dozen or so states that don’t include gender identity as part of their bias crime statutes. I’m just saying.
Is the bill perfect? Of course not. No legislation is. But as Republican State Senator Jim Merritt of Indianapolis mentioned, it’s “a substantial first step forward for Indiana to demonstrate our commitment to protecting all citizens from hate and bigotry.” and he noted lawmakers can always keep working to make it better because it’s better to “choose progress over total inaction.”
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