WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — The Indiana Hate and Bias Crimes bill authored by Tippecanoe County lawmaker, Republican State Senator Ron Alting has passed to full Senate with a vote of nine to one.
45 states have laws specific to hate and bias crimes. Right now, Indiana is not one of them.
“Indiana welcomes and respects everyone,” said State Senator Ron Alting. “You don't want to continue to be on a list with five states that shows that you're not one of them.”
Right now in Indiana, if an individual were to spray paint their initials on a random public wall, it’s a crime. But if an individual were to spray paint a swastika on a synagogue, it's considered the same crime.
This bill focuses on punishing for the motive. State Senator Alting said it's not special legislation, it's equality legislation. The Hate and Bias Crimes bill was designed to give an increase in sentencing if the crime was fueled by hate of someone's race, religion or sexual orientation.
“If you commit a physical crime based on bias or hate motivation, a judge has the ability to prosecute you on your sentencing part as an aggravator and increase the sentencing,” said Alting.
Republican State Senator Phil Boots was the only State Senator to vote against the bill. He believes the laws already in place are enough.
“It's already against the law so this bill will not increase any number of laws that are violations,” said Boots. “Everybody’s protected, we have equal protection under the law, that’s our constitution and I believe that’s the way we should leave it.”
State Senator Boots believes all crimes against someone should be prosecuted the same.
“A crime is a crime, I don't know why anybody is more special than anybody else,” said State Senator Boots. “If I go shoot somebody they're dead whether I chose to shoot them because they were just walking down the street or because they were of a certain ethnicity.”
One group this bill protects is the Jewish community. Rabbi Michael Harvey of Temple Israel said a crime versus a hate crime does have a difference.
“Hate crime acts like terrorism one person is a victim but it affects an entire community,” said Rabbi Harvey. “The fear spreads to the entire community.”
Harvey said the vandalism of a synagogue is an example of why he feels this bill is important and necessary.
“The victim was the synagogue there but it sent a message that if you are a Jew, we’re going to attack you, we don’t like you,” said Rabbi Harvey. “That’s why this bill is so important to add onto the sentencing of the normal crimes.”