January 8, 2019
Leaders from Indiana’s business, nonprofit, advocacy, education and faith communities today formally kicked off the Indiana Forward campaign, a united and bipartisan effort to pass a clear and comprehensive bias crimes law in the 2019 legislative session. With nearly 700 supporters strong and growing, the Indiana Forward campaign will engage a statewide network of advocates to persuade lawmakers to enact a strong policy that leaves no Hoosier behind and removes Indiana from the short list of states without a bias crimes law.
“Passing a strong and fully comprehensive bias crimes law is an issue on which Indiana has virtually nothing to lose and everything to gain,” said Ann Murtlow, president and CEO of United Way of Central Indiana, which serves as a lead organizer for the Indiana Forward campaign. “This is a pivotal moment for the state and its elected officials to come together and set the record straight: Indiana is a place that welcomes diversity and values the safety of all who live, work and do business here. We look forward to partnering with the legislature and thank Gov. Eric Holcomb for his active leadership on this important issue.”
Throughout the 2019 legislative session, the Indiana Forward campaign will advocate for a law that provides Hoosier judges with clear direction on how to treat bias-motivated crimes during the sentencing process. To do this, the Indiana Forward campaign believes that a detailed list of enumerated characteristics that are most often the motivating factor for bias crimes is not only necessary for a bill to be comprehensive, but also for the resulting law to be effective. This structure is consistent with 44 other states that have bias crimes laws in place.
At a minimum, the Indiana Forward campaign believes that any bias crimes law should clearly enumerate at least the following immutable characteristics: race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sex, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Gov. Holcomb has also advocated for the inclusion of these characteristics, calling for any such law to align with the characteristics protected under the State’s employment policy handbook.
“Seeing these businesses, nonprofit organizations, religious groups and others come together to advocate for a statewide hate crime law further highlights that now is the right time to pass this legislation,” said State Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero). “For the betterment of Indiana, it is important we continue supporting an inclusive bill that protects the rights of every Hoosier.”
Among Indiana Forward’s most ardent supporters are leaders of the state’s business community, who report that Indiana’s status as one of five states without a bias crime law has hindered their efforts to attract talent and investment to the state.
“With talent as a top economic priority, it’s up to us to erase hesitations about Indiana as an inclusive state,” said Michael Huber, president and CEO of the Indy Chamber, which is a partner of the campaign and advocate for a bias crimes law on behalf of the Indiana Competes coalition. “It’s not enough to lead with an affordable business climate – we must commit to growing a skilled, diverse talent pipeline and ensure that our best workers and their families feel welcome and protected here.”
The Indiana Forward campaign will unite past and present efforts to pass a comprehensive bias crimes law at a time in which such crimes are on the rise nationally and around the state. More than 60 percent of Hoosiers support a bias crimes law, according to a November 2018 IndyPolitics.org statewide poll. In tandem with the direct lobbying effort underway at the Statehouse, the Indiana Forward campaign invites companies, organizations and individuals to sign up to advocate for a bias crimes law at IndianaForward.org.
About Indiana Forward
Indiana Forward is a broad and bipartisan statewide campaign that includes major state employers, non-profits, faith-based groups, the Indy Chamber, the Indiana Competes coalition, trade groups, colleges and universities, and more. The campaign is advocating for the 2019 Indiana General Assembly to pass a clear, specific and comprehensive bias crimes law that allows judges to enhance criminal sentences when the crime was motivated by bias toward a victim’s characteristics, such as: race; ethnicity; religion; national origin; sex; disability; gender identity; and sexual orientation. Indiana Forward is united by the principles that: