Last week, I started a discussion on a topic that is buzzing around the Statehouse: does Indiana need a hate crimes law? I stated that I opposed this notion, and this week, I will be explaining two House bills and why I am opposed to both of them.
House Bill 1020 would make an aggravating circumstance for the purpose of sentencing if the offender committed a crime against the victim because of an individual’s: “race, religion, color, gender, gender identity, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, status of being a law enforcement officer or status of being a member of the armed services whether or not the person’s belief or perception was correct.” This bill is unconstitutional because in Indiana, everyone is to be given “Equal Justice Under Law.” This proposal is saying that some people will receive more justice than another because of certain criteria.
House Bill 1093 is attempting to put into law what was previously established by judicial precedent. The Indiana Supreme Court already ruled in Witmer v. State that courts can consider bias as an aggravating circumstance when determining a sentence.
In Witmer v. State, it was because the victim was black and the offender was white. Courts already have the ability to use bias or hate in determining sentencing in Indiana. This bill is completely unnecessary because if we do nothing, courts will still have the ability to use bias or hate when sentencing in the wake of a crime.
George Orwell’s classic book, Animal Farm, includes a relevant quote, “All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.” Whereas, Founding Father Thomas Jefferson said that “All men are created equal.” Which is it going to be? Are we all equal or are some more equal than others?