The state House voted last week against changing Alabama’s hate crimes law to include offenses against people because of their sexual orientation. On a procedural vote, the House lined up 40-37 against bringing the hate crimes bill up for consideration. The vote fell mostly along party lines, with Republicans opposing the bill, saying it would make an assault on certain people worse than an attack on others. The Legislature passed a hate crimes law in 1994 that mandates longer minimum sentences for crimes committed because of the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability, but does not include sexual orientation.
Sadly, Indiana is one of four states, including Arkansas, South Carolina and Wyoming, which does not have any hate crimes law, let alone one which includes bias crimes committed against a person because of their sexual orientation.
Last year, Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi pledged to pursue the enactment of a hate crimes law which included sexual orientation during this year's legislative session. Without explanation, Brizzi abandoned those efforts. His office refused to respond to Advance Indiana's repeated requests for comment on his decision not to pursue a hate crimes law. Brizzi is facing a tough re-election battle from Democrat Melina Kennedy, who is raising some big bucks for the race. The issue could have bolstered his re-election efforts; not having it could hurt his chances.
Making matters worse, the state's leading GLBT advocacy group, Indiana Equality, decided it would do nothing this year other than to fight off further legislative attempts to relegate gays and lesbians to second class citizens simply because Brizzi didn't want to push the issue this year.
It's pretty pathetic to think that Alabama enacted a hate crimes law more than a decade ago and has pushed ahead of the state of Indiana when it comes to issues of equality for the GLBT community.