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Law Prof. at Conference: Anyone Can Be a Victim of a Hate Crime

Conference aims to encourage a state hate crimes law

RTV6 Contributed to this story.

STATE HOUSE--There will be another push for a hate crimes law in Indiana. The Hoosier State is one of five without a state hate crimes law. It was addressed in the legislature last year, but did not pass. 

Thursday the Central Indiana Alliance Against Hate held the Indiana Response to Hate Conference, where Matthew Shepard's mother spoke, encouraging the passage of a hate crimes bill. Her gay son was beaten and set on fire, then left to die in 1998, while he was a student at the Univ. of Wyoming.

Post-election

"Post-election hate crimes have taken a dramatic spike up. So, we are seeing many more terrible things happen to people of color, to people again in the gay community, crimes against people because they don't worship the way others think they should, or immigrants is definitely on the rise again," said Shepard. "I sort of feel like I'm back at ground zero."

The conference on hate crimes was planned before the Charlottesville incident, said Amy Nelson, one of the leaders of the CIAAH. She said getting data on hate crimes in Indiana is important in getting a bill passed.

The personal stories

You can now report hate crimes at the CIAAH website.

"We certainly envision this being used as a more effective mechanism in order to talk about, share statistics," said Nelson. "But, we also don't want to lose those personal stories."

That's where Shepard's effort came in Thursday. She was the keynote speaker for the event.

Indiana University law professor Jeannie Bell also told the group she believes it's important the state passes a hate crimes law.

"Anyone can be targeted by hate crimes. It will be a better place for all of us to live if hate crime legislation is passed," she said.

The hope is that stiffer penalties in state cases would discourage criminals from victimizing people based on color, religion or sexual orientation.

PHOTO: RTV6

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