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Gov. Holcomb signs hate crimes bill into law

Indiana's long road to a hate crimes law took several sharp turns before ending in a compromise between what Gov. Holcomb called for before the legislative session began and what more conservative members of the legislature were comfortable with.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a hate crimes bill into law Wednesday afternoon.

Indiana's long road to a hate crimes law took several sharp turns before ending in a compromise between what Gov. Holcomb called for before the legislative session began and what more conservative members of the legislature were comfortable with.

The bill that he signed, Senate Enrolled Act 198, does not directly include a list of protected classes as Holcomb originally pressed for, but it does point to another list already in a different section of Indiana code that includes color, creed, disability, national origin, religion and sexual orientation. Critics protested using a list that doesn't include age, gender or gender identity, saying it leaves those groups unprotected.

Holcomb and state lawmakers say those groups are still protected because the bill includes language saying that list is not exclusive and judges can consider other forms of bias. A former Indiana Supreme Court justice appointed by a Democratic governor agrees with them.

Gov. Holcomb issued a statement shortly after the signing at 3 p.m. saying, in full, “Our goal was to achieve a comprehensive law that protects those who are the targets of bias crimes, and we have accomplished just that. We have made progress and taken a strong stand against targeted violence. I am confident our judges will increase punishment for those who commit crimes motivated by bias under this law."

Twists and turns

  • January 3: Senate Bill 12 was filed and assigned to committee, including language protecting 10 classes of people including race, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation and age
  • February 18: SB 12 passes out of Senate committee, 9-1
  • February 19: State Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, offers an amendment taking out the list, saying instead that judges can consider bias when deciding what sentence to give someone convicted of a crime
  • February 21: Senate passes SB 12 without a list
  • March 4: SB 12 assigned to a House committee, but no further action takes place with this bill
  • March 25: House adds hate crimes language to unrelated SB 198. This version didn't directly include a list, but did point to one already in another section of Indiana code that includes color, creed, disability, national origin, religion and sexual orientation. This happened on second reading in the full chamber, meaning no public testimony was heard on the change. It was also approved by voice vote, so there's no record of how each representative voted.
  • March 26: House passes SB 198 and sends it back to the Senate for their consideration
  • April 2: Senate passes SB 198, sends it to Gov. Eric Holcomb who said he would sign it "as soon as it gets to my desk."
  • April 3: Gov. Holcomb signs SB 198 into law in a private ceremony in his office at the Statehouse