Gov. Eric Holcomb renewed calls for a statewide hate crime bill Thursday, urging lawmakers to pass the legislation in the upcoming session.
Indiana is one of five states without a hate crime law, which would stiffen penalties for crimes motivated by the victim’s race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or other factors.
“I think I’ve been crystal clear that it’s overdue and I thought we had a good chance of passing it prior,” Holcomb said during a stop at Wabash College, adding the bill had not been on his legislative agenda.
“But since we didn’t get it done, I want to make sure I don’t just add my voice, but that I’m part of making sure it happens, and so I’m there to make sure that we get across the line this time,” he said.
Holcomb first announced his support for the bill in July after anti-Semitic graffiti was spray-painted on an Indianapolis-area synagogue. His latest remarks came nearly a week after a gunman opened fire at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 people and wounding six others.
Attempts to pass a bill last year stalled over disagreements about the language. Earlier this month, a legislative study committee failed to forward a recommendation about creating the law.
Critics say the law would create special protections for victims and limit free speech.
“It’s nothing to do with censoring speech, it’s got to do with when a crime is committed,” Holcomb said, “so … after we pass this legislation, we’ll be known as a state that stands with victims.”
During a Chapel Talk on campus, Holcomb said targeted crimes are part of a broader lack of civility in the country.
“I know this law will not stop evil in its tracks,” he said.