Thursday, January 19, 2006

Indiana's Wrong-Headed Approach To Hate Crimes

Oh aren't our state senators such brave men and women. Today they passed Sen. Brent Steele's "funeral sanctity" bill, SB 5, for our veterans by a margin of 47-1 the Star tells us. Dare we ask who the truly brave sole was that voted against it?

If the "funeral sanctity" bill becomes law, it will become a Class D felony to publicly demonstrate within 500 feet of a gravesite or funeral home. As originally introduced, it applied only to military funerals. Sen. Steele thought that might not pass constitutional muster so he expanded it too include all funerals. Ironically, Sen. Steele's bill does nothing to address the source of the hate that is motivating these wackos to protest at these funerals. And what do we do if they start protesting at churches they view as being pro-homosexual, which they have already done, are we going to make that a Class D felony as well?

The inspiration for Sen. Steele's bill came from the demonstrations the anti-gay bigoted Christian church from Kansas staged at a handful of military funerals in Indiana, who blame the deaths of the fallen soldiers fighting in Iraq on America's so-called tolerance of homosexuals. Sen. Steele didn't have a problem with their anti-gay views, which he whole-heartedly shares; he only had a problem at whom they directed their protests--the families of our fallen soldiers.

Sen. Steele, an attorney, and apparently his Senate colleagues as well, don't have any particular problem with people committing bias crimes against persons and their property because of their religion, race, creed or sexual orientation. That's because Indiana is one of only four states in the country, along with Arkansas, South Carolina and Wyoming, which does not have a so-called hate crimes law.

Our fair-minded Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi wanted the legislature to enact a hate crimes bill this year, but not one member of the legislature, Democrat or Republican, felt compelled to introduce the measure. Unlike these funeral protests Sen. Steele and his colleagues find so objectionable, hate crimes happen day in and day out year after year. In the most recent year for which statistics are available, at least 67 hate crimes were committed in Indiana, of which 25% were committed because of the person's sexual orientation.

Several years ago, several transgender persons were murdered over a period of time and dumped in alleys in and around Indianapolis' downtown. The mainstream media never reported on these crimes, which were likely being committed by a serial killer motivated by their gender identity. The crimes remain unsolved to this day, seemingly of no interest to anyone.

Advance Indiana does not in any way wish to diminish the despicable acts of these anti-gay bigoted Christians protesting at these funerals, but if the legislature is truly interested in addressing this issue, a hate crimes law is by far the more sensible approach. Steele's bill does nothing more than criminalize free speech--in a manner that would likely be held to be unconstitutional if ever challenged.

So why won't you see Sen. Steele or his colleagues support a hate crimes law as an alternative way of dealing with this problem? Because the anti-gay bigoted Christian organizations like Advance America and the American Family Association would condemn them for giving "special rights to homosexuals." And Sen. Steele and his colleagues don't want to vote for anything these anti-gay bigoted Christian constituents might consider "pro gay." That's the sad truth.

UPDATE: The sole member to vote against Steele's bill was Sen. Billie Breaux (D-Indianapolis). WISH-TV quotes Breaux in speaking in opposition to the bill as saying: "In the sixties we protested against civil rights. There were many people who did not agree with that. We had the right to do that and I don't think we have the right to determine legislatively what is right and what is wrong." She makes a very good point.


Anonymous said...

Could you send me some more information on the transgendered murders? It's certainly of interest to me -- I don't recall hearing anything about it, and the news is very distressing. I want to know what happened. If there's someone attacking transgendered people, I want to see them caught.

Gary R. Welsh said...


The murders took place during the early 1990s. As I recall, the bodies were found near Mass Ave before it was fully revitalized not long after the first gay bars opened there.