I consider labels to be an unnecessary way to categorize people. Not only is a label often derogatory, but at the very least it is intended to illicit some kind of emotional response toward a person or group. I do my best to limit labeling, because quite frankly, using labels is lazy.
Just like a soup can label, social tags are totally superficial. They don’t begin to tell a person’s life story. Calling your neighbor a Conservative or a Liberal, for instance, only scratches the surface. She is also Mother, employee, lover, teacher — all sorts of things.
For the record, I believe most people would consider me a social moderate, and a fiscal conservative. I hate to spend money, but if I do, I want my money to help the people most in need of it. I don’t care what they do in private.
Some people think differently.
An Indiana Senate panel this week voted in favor of moving a hate crime bill to the full Senate. The legislation is aimed at adding Indiana to the list of 45 other states that have hate crime laws on their books. Currently, only Indiana, South Carolina, Wyoming, Georgia, and Arkansas do not.
The Republican-led Senate will consider the proposal advanced from the Senate Public Policy Committee in a 9-1 vote. Republican Governor Eric Holcomb has endorsed adding a hate crime law this year, citing it is “long overdue” legislation.
The bill allows judges to impose additional penalties on convicted criminals who use personal bias to target people who identify with certain attributes, such as sexual orientation, race, religion, gender identity, or age.
These often minority traits, of course, are labels. So, you might understand why some Conservatives oppose the legislation, successfully defeating the last three bills –– all in the shadow of the controversial 2015 Indiana religious freedom law that certainly made Indiana a laughing stock of the entire country, when then-Governor Mike Pence “modified” the bill to relax language, and avoid a national boycott.
Conservatives argue that hate crime legislation threatens free speech, prohibits personal bias, and that current laws universally protect victims. Proponents contend that some crimes are actually acts of terrorism against entire groups of people, and having additional penalties offers comfort to those communities.
Tuesday, the Senate removed language safeguarding protected groups, including sexual orientation and gender identity, two long-standing Conservative bugaboos. The move infuriated backers, including the bill’s author Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, who voted against his own legislation.
The point being missed, I believe, is that hate crime legislation is directed at persons who have ALREADY been convicted of a crime. I’m not sure why I should care if a criminal’s biases are protected. Allowing hate crime language in no way supports lifestyles politicians might oppose, but can put people at ease who feel targeted, which is laudable.
Consequently, like in the grocery, little satisfaction comes from reading labels, if no one ever considers what’s inside the can.
John O. Marlowe is a reporter, sports writer and award-winning columnist for The Paper.