The nation’s leading civil rights organizations to Indiana legislators: No list, no law

Thirty of America’s most prominent civil rights advocacy organizations rebuke Indiana’s current bias crimes bill as “weak,” “vague” and “unacceptable”

INDIANA, March 7, 2019 – Thirty of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations — including the Anti-Defamation League, the Human Rights campaign, the NAACP and the Southern Poverty Law Center — sent a letter to Gov. Holcomb, Speaker of the House of Representatives Brian Bosma and President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray today to make it clear that Senate Bill 12, as currently drafted, will not remove Indiana from the list of states without a bias crimes law. As the “keepers of the list” of states without bias crimes laws, they write that only by restoring the specific, comprehensive list of enumerated characteristics that was deleted by the full Senate would Indiana have a legitimate bias crimes law.

The signatories, which represent a broad base of America’s racial, ethnic, interfaith, disability, and multicultural communities, also urge legislators to consider the negative potential implications of enacting an “unacceptable, vague and weak state bias crime law” that would go against the bill’s original intent.

“…Some opponents of an Indiana bias crime law continue to erroneously argue that specifying categories in legislation will lend ‘special statuses’ to minorities. This notion is simply false. Inclusive hate crime statutes are designed to cover everyone; anyone intentionally targeted because of their personal characteristics would be protected in a hate crime statute which includes enumerated categories,” the letter states.

“We are encouraged that so many national civil rights organizations have formally affirmed what Indiana’s business, philanthropic, academic and faith communities have made clear to members of the General Assembly: If there is no list of enumerated characteristics in Indiana’s bias crimes bill, then such a law is not real, enforceable or effective,” said David Sklar, assistant director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Indianapolis and co-chair of Indiana Forward. “We look forward to working with members to restore the bill back to a form that an overwhelming majority of Hoosiers are asking for.”

“We are grateful that so many national civil rights groups have joined the chorus of advocates across the state who are convinced that only with a comprehensive list of characteristics can Indiana’s bias crimes law be truly effective,” said Marya Rose, VP and Chief Administrative Officer, Cummins Inc. “Their validation underscores why Indiana’s business community has made passing comprehensive bias crimes legislation our top policy priority. It’s the right thing to do for our current employees. It’s the right thing to do for the employees we want to attract in the future. And it’s the right thing to do for our state.”

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