Indiana lawmakers are considering a new bill that would prohibit picketing or protesting outside someone’s home with the intention to harass.
The bill would establish a new offense known as ‘residential harassment,’ a Class C felony that would apply to all homes, regardless of whether they belong to elected officials.
‘The intent of the bill, which has come to me from the Prosecuting Attorneys Council, is to protect the sanctity of our private residence … to prevent people from picketing and intending to harass people in their homes,’ Republican state Sen. Scott Baldwin, who authored the bill, told the Indiana Capital Chronicle.
Supporters of the bill presented their case to the Senate Corrections Committee Tuesday, stating it would provide law enforcement with a way to safeguard the privacy of people’s homes, particularly in the face of rising politically motivated violence.
State senators decided to hold the bill before moving it forward.
The proposed law comes after repeated protests at the homes of Supreme Court justices and an attack against former Speaker of the House Nancy’s Pelosi’s husband Paul Pelosi.
‘I never thought I’d see that in my lifetime,’ Democratic state Sen. Greg Taylor said of the recent attack against Pelosi, according to the outlet. ‘I’m going to support the bill, but I don’t think it’s going to do anything to help with what we’re trying to do.’
Those who oppose the law claim the protections it would carve out already exist. State Sen. Aaron Freeman of Indianapolis, a Republican, claimed that the Frisby v. Schultz decision by the Supreme Court in 1988 already established the legality of ordinances restricting demonstrations in residential areas.
Frisby v. Schultz centered around a group of pro-life activists who held a protest outside the home of a doctor who offered abortion services, which led the city of Brookfield, Wisconsin, to institute a ban on picketing in front of homes. The Supreme Court sided with city lawmakers after protesters took the city to court.
Zach Stock, who serves as legislative counsel for the Indiana Public Defender Council, told the outlet that police are already empowered to arrest someone for the activity the new bill would outlaw.
‘I think that prosecutors and judges have the tools — juries have the tools — to engage in that case-by-case analysis right now,’ Stock said. ‘We’re not defending anybody’s right to harass people.’
State Sen. Liz Brown, a Republican from Fort Wayne, claimed she has been harassed at her own home.
‘I don’t think they should come to our homes; I’ve had that happen to me,’ she said. ‘They didn’t say a word, but I found it very intimidating and harassing.