JCRC Statement on the Passage and Signing of Senate Enrolled Act 198
Today, the Indiana General Assembly’s version of a bias crimes bill, Senate Enrolled Act 198, was signed into law. The Jewish Community Relations Council is disappointed in the outcome of the legislative process and opposes the statute in its current form.
SEA 198 does not fully and conclusively identify all of the characteristics we know to be the motivating factors of bias crimes, as it omits age, sex, gender, and gender identity from the list. The Jewish community cannot in good conscience applaud a statute that fails to protect other vulnerable communities. The bill not only excludes language that is broadly supported by an overwhelming majority of Hoosiers, but it also includes language that is overly broad and vague, creating the potential for legal challenges. Finally, the bill failed to update our existing bias crimes reporting requirements, or provide continuing education for law enforcement officials to help them effectively recognize and react to bias crimes in their jurisdictions.
While removing Indiana from the list of five states without a bias crimes statute was a priority for all involved, it became clear throughout the session that for some, “getting off the list” became more important than enacting a meaningful, comprehensive law that would provide precise direction to prosecutors and judges, and withstand legal scrutiny.
The JCRC is proud of our advocacy over the past five years helping to build and lead a statewide coalition with hundreds of partnering communal organizations. We thank members of the Jewish community who supported our efforts, as well as our partners and Hoosiers all over the state who spoke loudly and clearly in favor of passing a real bias crimes statute in Indiana. The JCRC is grateful to the breadth of policy makers, from legislators to mayors to city councilors, who have been the true champions of this legislation, some carrying the weight of this effort for twenty years or more.
Our work is not done, and the JCRC will continue to advocate in the halls of the Indiana General Assembly for a fully inclusive, legally defensible bias crimes law in our state.
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Aaron Welcher, Communications Coordinator