June July 2016
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The Advocate

Indiana Has No Time for Hate-Crimes Legislation

Micah Clark and Eric Miller

The Indiana House of Representatives has no time for LGBT rights.

So said Rep. Thomas Washburne, the chairman of the House Courts and Criminal Code Committe, which will let a hate-crimes bill die due to alleged time constraints. The legislation was passed by the state Senate in early February, and the committee had scheduled a hearing for next week.

"As a committee chairman, what is driving me is simply time," said the Republican politician, who had opposed the bill, according to the Associated Press. "If you can only do so many bills, you're going to do the ones that have the most substantive change."

If passed, the legislation would have given judges the choice to impose harsher sentences when factors like gender, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity are motivators in law-breaking.

Indiana is one of five U.S. states that still do not have some form of hate-crimes law, different incarnations of which have been debated by state legislators for the past 15 years.

The bill's death is the latest disappointment in the fight for LGBT rights in Indiana. To much controversy, the state passed a so-called religious freedom bill last year, which gave business owners the option to refuse goods and services to LGBT people. It tarnished Indiana's reputation as a welcoming place for commerce and diversity, and had to be amended.

"We call it 'Hoosier Hospitality,' yet our laws are inconsistent with that," said Sen. Greg Taylor, a coauthor of the hate-crimes bill.

The hate-crimes legislation may be the last opportunity for Indiana to address statewide discrimination this year. An LGBT rights bill died early February in the state Senate. The House also voted down an amendment that would have protected lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gay people from job discrimination last Thursday.

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