Republican Eric Holcomb replaced Mike Pence as Indiana’s governor after Pence became Vice President. But unlike Pence and many other Republicans, Holcomb is a supporter of transgender rights.
Indiana’s Hate Crime Laws
The state of Indiana is preparing to debate hate crime laws again. Many companies, including tourism boards, have expressed desire for gender identity to be included in these laws. However, House Speaker Brian Bosma disagrees that gender identity should be among the list of protected groups. Republicans control both chambers of the Indiana state legislature.
But for the first time, Indiana’s governor has told lawmakers to leave gender identity in the bill — or don’t pass anything at all. Holcomb has expressed that he’d like the state’s hate crime laws to mirror the executive branch’s nondiscrimination policy – which includes both sexual orientation and gender identity.
Currently, Indiana does not have a nondiscrimination law that protects residents who aren’t employed by the government.
‘The goal for us all, before we adjourn, is to pass a bias crime bill that moves our state off the list of five states without one,’ Holcomb said in a statement to IndyStar. ‘I’m comfortable with the executive branch employment policy that we’ve had in place since 2005, and I look forward to working with Hoosiers and the legislature as we move to achieve this goal.’
In 2017, 85 bias crimes were recorded in the state — the highest number since 2010.
Republican lawmakers at work
New Republican lawmakers, elected in the November midterms, are working on new bias crime legislation. The November election ousted one of Indiana’s biggest opponents of hate crime legislation, Republican Sen. Mike Delph. Delph was replaced by Sen. J.D. Ford, the state’s first openly gay lawmaker.
‘We’re everyday Hoosiers just like they are, going to work, paying our taxes,’ Ford told IndyStar. ‘I’m hoping to really play a huge part in this, but I also know it’s going to take some heavy lifting, and some difficult conversations.’
Sen. Ron Alting is another Indiana lawmaker working on a hate crime bill that includes gender identity. He is hopeful that it will be passed.
‘It’s time for legislators to look in the mirror on the issue and think to themselves, “What do the constituents want?” I think it’s time to think a little bit about the constituents versus your own beliefs in this,’ Alting said. ‘You are a public servant. You work for the people… I really can’t think of any reason why we shouldn’t but I think of a lot of reasons we why should.’
But not every Indiana conservative is on board. For instance, Micah Clark, president of the socially conservative American Family Association of Indiana, thinks including gender identity in the state’s hate crime bill is ‘unnecessary.’
‘When you start creating a list, you’re going to leave people off,’ Clark said. ‘Right now nobody is missed; everybody is covered by law in practice.’
Still, LGBTI advocacy groups disagree.
‘The purpose of listing protected classes in civil rights and hate crimes laws is to ensure that those who are targeted by discrimination and are most vulnerable, are protected,’ said Kate Blair, director of advocacy and public policy for ACLU of Indiana.
‘Transgender people are disproportionately targeted with violence because of who they are.’
Feelings toward the LGBTI community are slowly shifting in Indiana. Over the summer, a church in the state was evicted following their posting of a homophobic sign. The sign claimed being LGBTI was a ‘hate crime against God.’
Author: Rafaella Gunz
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