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(NOBLESVILLE, Ind.) – Discussions on a hate crime bill in next year’s legislature are already underway.

Last week, Governor Holcomb became the first Indiana governor to call for a hate crimes law, after someone painted Nazi symbols on a Carmel synagogue. He says he’s already begun talking with legislators, legal experts and community leaders about how it should read. The governor says he wants to get as much of the heavy lifting 
as possible out of the way, to get close to a consensus before the legislature begins hearing bills in January. 

Opponents have maintained there’s no reason to treat hate crimes any differently from any other crime — the desecration of the synagogue, for instance, could be prosecuted as vandalism if those responsible are caught. Holcomb counters it’s important to stand with the victims and send a clear message that Indiana won’t put up
with bigotry.

The Senate voted in 2016 to allow judges to impose longer sentences if they find hate is a motive. It didn’t get a hearing in the House. House Speaker Brian Bosma has since said that while he believes judges already have that authority, it makes an important statement to say so explicitly. But while the House has signaled its willingness to consider a hate crimes bill, the proposal has gone backwards in the Senate the last two years, with bills similar to the 2016 bill stalling before reaching a floor vote. Opponents have argued the bill draws an unjustified distinction between classes traditionally covered by civil rights laws, such as race and religion, and groups which might be targeted for other reasons, including political beliefs. Supporters have charged that argument is a smokescreen for opposition to the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the list of hate crime targets.

Indiana is one of five states without a hate crime law.

Gov. Eric Holcomb (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)