INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb is pledging to help enact an Indiana hate crimes law during the 2019 General Assembly after a central Indiana synagogue was vandalized over the weekend with Nazi imagery spray-painted on a garbage bin shed.
The Republican acknowledged that "no law can stop evil." But he also no longer wants the Hoosier State to be one of just five in the country without a hate crimes law on its books.
"I'll be meeting with lawmakers, legal minds, corporate leaders and citizens of all stripes who are seeking to find consensus on this issue so that, once and for all, we can move forward as a state," Holcomb said.
The Republican-controlled Legislature repeatedly has considered and scuttled proposals to include biased motivation for a crime as an explicit aggravating factor for judges to consider when issuing felony criminal sentences.
Under those proposals, there would not be a separate "hate crime" statutory violation; instead, there would be only the possibility that an individual's prison term would be set higher than the advisory sentence for the underlying criminal act.
Bias crime measures routinely have failed to garner majority support due largely to Senate Republicans refusing to extend protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals on the same basis as race, religion, color, sex, disability, ethnicity and ancestry.
The General Assembly's criminal code study committee is scheduled this summer to examine the issue of bias-motivated crime and identify opportunities for legislative consensus.
State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, said an Indiana hate crimes law cannot come soon enough to relieve the "heartache and unease" of the Hoosier Jewish community.
"The victims involved in this tragedy and every other one like it deserve to be treated with respect and dignity," Melton said.
"We need to show Indiana that no one should be harmed or discriminated against based on their race, religion, gender, sexual identity or anything else."