IBLC: Fight to pass hate crimes bill is certainly not a new one in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis), chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, issued the following statement today:

The fight to pass legislation punishing those who commit hate crimes is not a new one in Indiana.

What has gained attention is the small, but growing, number of Republican lawmakers in the Indiana General Assembly who find themselves drawn toward supporting hate crimes legislation…no doubt because of the constant stream of incidents committed by people who simply don’t like others because of the way they look or their faith or their gender or their sexual orientation.

For minority legislators in Indiana, however, this battle has been a lengthy one, led by members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC) who have spoken loudly and eloquently on the need to pass a hate crimes law.

Painting symbols of hate at a synagogue in Carmel, Indiana, was merely the latest in a lengthy series of hateful acts that have stretched through the years.

Since 1999, there have been more than 30 attempts to pass legislation to deal with bias crimes or hate crimes in Indiana. [See the list.]

In that time, there has been no greater champion for correcting this injustice than State Rep. Gregory W. Porter. For more than 15 years, his agenda has consistently included some type of proposal to punish hate crimes in our state. Indeed, it is because of Rep. Porter that we have a law on the books that requires law enforcement across our state to report information on crimes that have been caused by the color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation of the person affected by the crime.

That happened in 2000. Since that time, IBLC members have made numerous attempts to put teeth behind a hate crimes law. Those efforts have been made by stalwart champions like State Rep. Bill Crawford (D-Indianapolis) and State Sens. Cleo Washington (D-South Bend) and Glenn Howard (D-Indianapolis).

In recent times, Rep. Porter has been joined in his efforts by State Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis). These two gentlemen have engaged in the seemingly Sisyphean task of convincing a Legislature controlled by Republicans that Indiana should not be one of five states without a hate crimes law on its books.

Yet these gentlemen have endured…and slowly but surely, the sheer weight of common sense in the face of injustice has started to bring more lawmakers into their camp. Whereas once it would have seemed impossible for Republican lawmakers to put their name on hate crimes legislation, we are seeing fine-minded public servants like State Sen. Sue Glick (R-LaGrange) become champions of this cause.

And now, as we move toward the 2019 session of the Indiana General Assembly, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has announced his support for a hate crimes law.

Of course this is a positive step forward, but it must be said that many roadblocks remain in the path of making this law become reality. In the past, the introduction of a hate crimes law has been greeted with great attention and declarations of support, only to lose steam as legislators begin to equivocate in the face of resistance. These folks begin to talk about hate crimes being covered under existing case law, when the reality of the situation is that they would just as soon not deal with this issue.

But their intransigence will not succeed in the face of the persistence shown by leaders like State Rep. Gregory W. Porter and State Sen. Greg Taylor.

A hate crimes law is coming. Count on it.