Indiana Chamber to back state hate-crimes legislation

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday announced it would support the passage of a state law against bias or hate crimes, marking the first time the organization has taken an official position on the issue.

The chamber’s board of directors, which includes more than 100 business leaders from throughout the state, voted in favor of the stance at Tuesday’s fall meeting.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb called on the General Assembly to pass a hate crimes bill after someone spray-painted anti-Semitic graffiti at a Carmel synagogue in July.

“We are pleased that Gov. Holcomb is making this a priority,” Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar said in written comments. “Having a meaningful bias crimes statute in Indiana is not only the right thing to do, it is also important to helping our employers recruit and retain talented employees.”

Indiana is one of five states without a specific hate crimes law, although judges do have leeway to grant harsher sentences in crimes for constitutional factors. Republican Senate leaders sidelined a bill during the last General Assembly that targeted crimes motivated by bias.

“Indiana is a welcoming place and we need to enact every policy possible to convey that message to those outside our state,” Brinegar said. “As we work to attract top talent from all over the U.S. and the world, individuals need to know that their friends and families will be safe from discrimination.”

A committee assigned to study hate crimes legislation decided last month to punt further discussions to the upcoming General Assembly, making no specific recommendation for the 2019 legislative session.

Brinegar said lawmakers should figure out a way to pass the law even if it means compromise. Legislators weren’t able to come to a consensus in the last session because of disagreement over a provision that would have protected transgender people.

“The Indiana Chamber will be pushing for as broadly defined a law as possible, yet recognizing that the overriding goal is for a bill to pass and Indiana to take itself off the very short list of states (five) that do not have a bias crimes law on the books,” he said.

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