Bil Browning

Important legislation introduced

Filed By Bil Browning | January 17, 2007 12:13 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: civil rights, Democrats, Gregory Porter, hate crimes against LGBT people, Indiana, Jeb Bardon, legislation, LGBT community, local politics

Important LGBT-focused legislation has been introduced in recent days in the General Assembly! Representative Jeb Bardon (D - Indianapolis) has filed HB 1716 - a bill to update the state's non-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity. (The bill is not yet online or I'd include a link.)

I've met Rep. Bardon several times and he's consistently been a gentleman and a scholar. He's also spoken at Indiana Equality house parties about the importance of treating all of our citizens equally and with honor. We couldn't ask for a better champion for this important piece of legislation.

By far and away, this is the most important proposed law for LGBT citizens this session. I've been harping constantly on the importance of achieving full equality for all Hoosiers - after all, how can we demand equal access to marriage, domestic partner benefits, and health insurance if we can still be fired for simply being who we are? Everything else flows through this, people. This is the stepping stone we need to gain our rights as citizens.

Also recently introduced is HB 1459 which was filed by Democratic Representative Greg Porter - Indianapolis. HB 1459 would provide for enhanced penalties for hate crimes. (It's not online yet either.) Rep Porter has long been an advocate of bias crime legislation and I'm sure he appreciates Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi's recent push in support of the legislation.

In an interview with The Indianapolis Star's editorial board Tuesday, Brizzi said he is working to change state law so that judges will have the authority to enhance penalties for crimes motivated by bias against a victim's race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Indiana is one of five states that do not officially list hate crimes as a sentencing aggravator. Now, Brizzi said, most hate crimes tend to be categorized as an assault or vandalism.

You'll notice, however, that the language Brizzi is pushing does not include gender identity. I'm sure it will be a long hard slog to get our transgender friends included, but we must. I would suggest that we flatly oppose any hate crimes bill that doesn't include gender identity.

While I'm actually not a big fan of hate crimes legislation (Yes, I know you're going to take away my gay card. Jerame and I argue about it all the time!), I'm sure Gary Welsh from Advance Indiana will be pleased. He's been talking about a hate crimes bill for over a year - since the Republican prosecutor announced through back channels that he would support the legislation and try to push it through. Gary has advocated for a hate crimes bill as long and hard as I've harped on a civil rights bill. While we've made different decisions as to what is most important to Indiana's LGBT community, today we both have something to be extremely happy about.

And so do you.

So what's your opinion? Which is more important - a hate crimes bill or a civil rights bill?

UPDATE: Contributor Chris Douglas has informed me (in the comments section) that the hate crimes bill language does include gender identity. One less thing to worry about!

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In an ideal world these two pieces seem great but the practical side of me sees a disaster.

I could see politicians passing one or both of these as well as the amendment. They could then tell each side, Indiana Equality and Indiana Family, that we each got something we wanted in exchange for something we did not want.

Both are very important, and thank you for alerting us. I'm hoping the Brizzi initiative isn't a Trojan horse. That being said, I don't know how much pull he has in the legislature. Almost none, I'd guess. And I doubt he can get the other 91 prosecutors to sign on, so the Prosecuting Attys. Association won't be helping.

But the most-important is a duplicitous Marriage Amendment which could overshadow all this.

Constitutional Amendments trump statutes.

And igonrance, single-issue pandering and hatefulness seem to trump reason.

Get ready. We're going to be villified pretty soon. Stand tall.

Chris Douglas | January 17, 2007 3:48 PM

Though Carl Brizzi did not mention gender identity in the newspaper piece, the version that he supports does include it. There was at one time a staffed version of the legislation that did not include gender identity. The organizations that represent the glbt community are united in support of the inclusion of the transgendered in the hate crimes bill, and both the Prosecutor and Rep. Porter appear to be in agreement, though the statement in the newspaper does not mention this fact.

I would observe that many in the gay community are unaccustomed to spelling out "sexual orientation and gender identity." Brizzi includes gender identity in his office nondiscrimination policy (predating the HRO), and the final version of the legislation that he is pursuing reflects that perspective.

Thanks for the info, Chris. I appreciate it. I remember that Brizzi did add "gender identity" before the HRO was passed in an attempt to help sell it to city councilors. I'll update the post.

I think David may be on to something here as well. Passing a hate crimes bill and a civil rights bill would help to serve as appeasement to the LGBT community for a marriage amendment. But, I guess my innate cynicism takes over at this point and asks "Would either party really care enough about us to bother appeasing us?" Plenty of Democrats voted in favor of the amendment the first time through the General Assembly. I believe that most of them will again - with or without the other bills passage.

Thanks for the update...and in my opinion I would have to say each bill is equally important to me but for different reasons. I believe we need to be ever vigilant about our civil rights, because as you said we cannot move forward without first being protected under the same laws as our heterosexual neighbors. And let us never forget those who have been the unfortunate victims of hate crimes and how important it is to make sure the punishment fits these crimes.

I cannot grasp how a "hate crime" law is different from Orwell's "thought crime". I might well be part of the intended "protected class", but I am not comfortable suggesting that we start enhancing punishments based upon the individual criminals opinions or bias, no matter how ill-considered such opinions or biases may be. Punishments should indeed fit the crime - and they can do so without regard to a criminal's likes or dislikes, can' they?

Bil, I'm disappointed but not surprised by your negative attacks on Carl Brizzi's hate crimes bill. Criticizing legislation before you've even read it isn't always a good idea. Urging people in our community not to support it based upon a misapprehension is inexcusable. As for your suggestion that Brizzi announced his support for a hate crimes law last year through back channels, you are flat out wrong. Brizzi suggested the need for a hate crimes law in an interview with the Indiana Lawyer prior to last year's legislative session, a widely-read legal publication in this state. There was nothing secretive about that in the least bit. It just seemed to catch off guard some out of touch folks who are paid to look after these matters, just like it did when he adopted his own EEO policy which included sexual orientation and gender identity without even being asked by our community. While Brizzi was not able to get a hate crimes bill introduced last year, I would note that IE made no effort on behalf of our community to introduce either a hate crimes bill or a civil rights bill. Instead, we found ourselves on the defensive again fighting discriminatory laws. We have plenty of enemies crapping on us daily. For God's sakes, please don't crap on the people who are our friends.

Gary, are you always this gracious at accepting compliments? Yowza. Lighten up there, my friend... I am not intending any attack on Carl Brizzi.

I will point out that Prosecutor Brizzi cannot introduce any bills in the legislature. The bill has been introduced by Rep Greg Porter - not Brizzi. But, to acknowledge Brizzi's influence and pressure on behalf of a hate crimes law, I made sure to include him in the opening paragraph and quoted a newspaper article about him.

While I was concerned about the bill's inclusion of the transgender community, when Chris shared that the proposed legislation included "gender identity" I quickly updated the post. (I believe from the comments that it took about 11 minutes to notice I had a comment on a post, read it and act on it.)

As for the words "back channel," I think most people would agree that the general public isn't going to run out and buy a copy of "Indiana Lawyer" anytime soon. Did he call a press conference? Did he give a speech? Did he go before the legislature? No. He started talking to moderate and LGBT Republicans which seems like a much smarter strategy than just announcing to a local attorney's publication and hoping for the best. No disrespect was intended by "back channel," Gary.

I would, however, agree with your parting words. "We have plenty of enemies crapping on us daily. For God's sakes, please don't crap on the people who are our friends." I wasn't attempting to - and I'd hope that you weren't either.

I trust that Chris is right that Brizzi's policy does include gender identity and has for a long time, but I've never actually seen proof of it in writing anywhere, and I've looked, so if anyone has a reference, link, or citation to it, please forward it to me.

As for Adam's point about enhancing penalties for hate crimes, I asked those same questions myself when in law school. Why do we punish someone for what they were thinking when they committed a crime? Doesn't a murder have the same result regardless of what the person was thinking? Well, turns out, the answer is no. The distinction that can be made between, say, a guy who kills a clerk in a convenience store during a robbery and a guy who kills someone for being transgender is the effect it has on the broader community. If I hear that a clerk has been killed in the commission of a robbery, I say "oh, that's too bad" and go on with my day. If I hear that a transgender person has been murdered for being transgender, I start to fear for my own safety. The act can be taken as a threat to the lives of other people that belong to the group. How strong the threat is may be based in part on the evidence in any particular case, for example, what the person said or indicated was his motivation behind his actions. It's almost like a two-pronged act--an assault against an individual and an assault against the larger community. For example, when the Klan burns a cross on your lawn, it is a threat not only to you but also to anyone who looks like you. The threat is that you are not welcome, that your civil rights are not respected, and that violence can and will be used against you if you don't leave. It is this extra intimidating threat of violence against others who are different and against the general peace and order of our society that warrants the enhanced penalty.

Bruce Parker II | January 18, 2007 2:31 AM

Can someone find a copy or a link to Brizzi's actual policy?