Does Indiana’s hate crimes law need to specify categories of victims to be effective?
How often have we heard that Indiana is one of only five states that does not have a hate crimes law? The inherent assumption is that getting off that list is more important than protecting the citizens in our state.
The question we should be asking is, “What is best for all Hoosiers?” irrespective of whatever policies other states might choose for themselves.
We all agree that violence against any person motivated by a trait or characteristic of that person is totally unacceptable and contrary to Hoosier values. When considering how to construct a hate crimes law, shouldn’t we strive to protect all victims of hate, rather than subjectively creating a list which protects only certain groups of people? Otherwise, we reinforce the very discrimination we are seeking to eliminate.
In addition to this philosophical concern, there is a practical consideration. Indiana already has in law, and practice, what proponents for a list-approach say they want: the ability for judges to aggravate a sentence if they determine a hate crime has been committed. The Indiana Supreme Court’s Alex E. Witmer v. State of Indiana decision provides the legal precedent judges have been using since 2003 to aggravate hate crimes in Indiana. Senate Bill 12 reinforces the fact that judges can already include bias when sentencing.
Critics of the current version of SB 12 compare it to other states’ bias-crimes laws that have either been struck down or not used due to vagueness. However, the approach in SB 12 is decidedly different from laws in those states in that it codifies the practice of allowing judges to increase sentences for bias-motivated crimes, which our Supreme Court has affirmed.
The alleged perception that Indiana is unwelcoming to business is outweighed by reality. The quality of life in Indiana, combined with our very attractive business climate, has gained national credibility.
In 2018, Indiana was named one of the top 10 states for doing business by Site Selection, Chief Executive, and Area Development magazines, and Forbes rated Indiana No. 3 in the nation for positive regulatory environment and No. 7 for quality of life.
The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council’s “Small Business Policy Index 2018” ranked Indiana the eighth-most entrepreneur-friendly state. And the 2019 State Business Tax Climate Index from the nonpartisan Tax Foundation ranks Indiana’s favorable tax climate No. 1 in the Midwest and No. 10 in the nation.
There is certainly more work to be done. But the truth is that Indiana has one of the most competitive business environments in the Midwest and the nation.
These rankings are not just a result of our fiscal policies but are also a reflection of our Hoosier hospitality, ingenuity and hard work. In Indiana, we need public policies that move us all forward together.
SB 12’s inclusive approach does not leave anyone behind—it ensures that all Hoosiers are protected from hate-based crimes of any kind.
As we strive for unity within our diversity, let us set an example for the rest of the nation to follow.•
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Crane represents District 24 in the Indiana Senate. He is founder and CEO of the Sagamore Leadership Initiative Inc. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.