Indiana is officially the 46th state with a hate crimes statute! On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed SB 198 into law. The previous day, the Senate concurred on the House-amended measure 34-14.

While language in the bill (see bolded text) isn’t as delineated as we originally advocated for, it’s still a very meaningful hate crimes bill. It is more inclusive than some states’ laws and on par with others.

And as we had expected, legal and judicial experts are starting to weigh in and affirming that the broad protections in the bill, in addition to the referred list of categories, translates to coverage for ALL Hoosiers.

Former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Frank Sullivan, Jr., a Democrat appointed to the bench in 1993 by Gov. Evan Bayh, said:

“The language of the bill is clear that acts of bias that are specifically referred to are not exclusive: Gender and gender identity, as well as age, citizenship, marital status, etc. are authorized to be used as an aggravating circumstance in determining a sentence every bit as much as race or religion or sexual identity. Just because a characteristic or trait is not specifically listed does not prevent it from being used to impose a harsher sentence. That was the conclusion reached by the Indiana Supreme Court in its unanimous Witmer v. State decision, a case in which I participated while a justice on the court.

“…To be clear: If a person thinks that under this law, he or she can commit a crime with bias due to a victim’s gender or gender identity without risk of a harsher sentence, that person is wrong.”

This is an example of why the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) preliminary dismissal of Indiana’s bill seems unjust. Yes, the ADL controls its own list, but rational thinking and fair treatment need to prevail.

In a statement following the Governor signing the measure, ADL still maintained SB 198 doesn’t go far enough or goes too far – depending on which line you read. And it says, “the failure to explicitly list gender identity, gender or sex is unacceptable.” Timeout! What about the 28 other states it’s given credit to for having a suitable bias crimes law that do ­­not include gender identity, or what about the 10 other states moved off the bad list that do not cover gender or sex? Will ADL revisit the status of all those states? We’re guessing that won’t happen, but the group is now trying to make a point with Indiana and is putting its advocacy arm at the forefront.

It also should be noted that other groups, including the NAACP, maintain lists of states with hate crime laws, and they have yet to weigh in.

Nonetheless, with judicial opinions like Sullivan’s and more expected along the same lines, it will be harder and harder for ADL – or any group – to continue along its path of denying Indiana’s status. The state’s new law, set to go in effect July 1, contains a list of categories and additional language to cover those not specifically spelled out. We strongly encourage the ADL to reassess its position on Indiana and remove the state from its list of those without a hate crimes law.

Passing the law was so important for Indiana and the business community because we are in such an intense battle for talent as employers struggle to find enough skilled workers. Consider that for the first time in our country’s history that there are more job openings than there are job-seekers. Therefore, it was critical to remove any or all strikes against Indiana to assist Hoosier employers in filling their own positions, so that they can compete more effectively in the global economy.

Resources: Kevin Brinegar at (317) 264-6882 or email: kbrinegar@indianachamber.com; Adam H. Berry at (317) 264-6892 or email: aberry@indianachamber.com