Indiana lawmaker optimistic about passing hate crime law

INDIANAPOLIS — Days after Gov. Eric Holcomb said he was putting hate crimes legislation into his priorities for 2019, one state representative said she’s optimistic about the chances of passing a hate crime bill into law during the upcoming legislative session. 

State Rep. Cherrish Pryor, a Democrat from Indianapolis, said Monday that events that should be classified as hate crimes keep happening in Indiana: “It makes me sick.” 

She points to an incident earlier this year where someone spray-painted anit-Semitic graffiti on part of the campus of a Carmel synagogue.

“It seems as though in the last two years, people who are filled with hatred now feel emboldened to take action on that hatred and harm other people,” Pryor said.

Earlier this year, a hate crime bill died during the legislative session. State Sen. Susan Glick, a Republican, said some lawmakers believed that bill didn’t go far enough, while she said other lawmaker thought the current law just needs a little nudge.

Glick said one of the sticking points lawmakers couldn’t agree on was gender identity.

“With the governor and his leadership behind it, hopefully it will move the needle, and we’ll finally get passage. The Black Caucus strongly urged the governor to get behind it. I’m glad he’s making it a priority,” Pryor said. 

Since Indiana is 1 of 5 states without a specific hate crime law on the books, Pryor said she and other members of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus are collectively co-authoring hate crime legislation for this coming session.

“We need to have enhanced penalties for people who think it’s OK to hurt or harm individuals who are not like them, whether it’s race, sexual orientation or religion,” Pryor said. 

“That discrimination and hated is not welcome in Indiana. It will not be tolerated,” Pryor said.

Some state lawmakers think the state laws already on the books protect Hoosiers from hate crimes. 

Pryor said she also hopes to see a change of heart in state lawmakers who oppose the proposal.

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