Backlash after IN Senate removes sexual orientation, gender, race from hate crimes bill


    WSBT 22

    There’s strong reaction tonight (Wednesday) after Indiana's Senate removed sexual orientation, gender identity, race and a list of other characteristics from a hate crimes bill.

    Instead, the Senate voted to add that judges can consider bias -- more generally -- as an aggravating circumstance.

    The governor has been pushing for this legislation and he's not happy with the changes.

    Governor Eric Holcomb says these changes do not get Indiana off the list of states without a bias crime law.

    Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody criticized the Republican governor, saying leaders find a way to bridge the divide and get things done.

    The last-minute changes to the hate crimes bill were a devastating blow to lawmakers who had been pushing for passage of a comprehensive plan.

    But supporters of the change say this was the fairest way to do things.

    “This whole conversation has always been philosophically, do you include a list in which you could maybe leave somebody off of there, or the court would interpret that somebody is not included in that?” said State Senator Rod Bray, Martinsville. “Or do you make it more general so that everybody can be included? That's what this conversation has been about all session."

    Those opposed say it was a failure for the people of Indiana.

    "The question becomes, ‘What's wrong in Indiana?’” said State Senator Tim Lanane. “Why can’t they pass a clear, meaningful bias crime in the state of Indiana? What are we afraid of? Are we afraid of the words race, religion, color, sex, gender identity, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, and age?"

    “I want to know that justice can exist for both myself and my family if something were to happen to me,” said Christi Sessa.

    Christi Sessa is a transgender person from Goshen.

    She wanted lawmakers to see what a hate crime bill means to her community.

    “I think it’s important to hear from the people it actually affects because it helps legitimize the stories people might tell,” said Sessa.

    South Bend's LGBTQ Center says,

    "It is vital that the Indiana General Assembly understands that the LGBTQ plus community must be included in any laws designed to protect Hoosiers from hate.
    A hate crime law without protections for specially victimized groups fails to recognize the impact of hate in our state on those most vulnerable."

    The center says the city of South Bend has already recognized the need to extend these types of protections locally.

    At the state level, similar measures have passed out of committee three times over the past several years.

    The hate crime bill has to be approved by the full Senate before next Tuesday.

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