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Indiana hate crimes bill passes committee, moves to full Senate

A state Senate committee heard testimony for and against the controversial bill for three hours before weighing in themselves and casting their votes.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — State lawmakers passed a hate crimes law out of committee Monday.

A state Senate committee heard testimony for and against the controversial bill for three hours before weighing in themselves and casting their votes. SB 12 passed the Public Policy Committee, 9-1.

It now moves to the full Senate. There, the bill is opened up for any senator to offer an amendment, if they wish. Some senators have said they want it to be changed to cover bias crimes in general, arguing that listing specific characteristics would limit its effectiveness and leave some victims without the same protection. Supporters of the bill point to Georgia where a bill that did not list specific characteristics was overturned by the courts because it was too vague.

If passed, SB 12 wouldn't create a new crime but a sentencing enhancement. It would only be able to be used if someone has already been convicted of another crime and it is determined the crime was committed because of the victim's race, religion, sex, gender identity, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, political affiliation, status as a public safety official, status as a relative of a public safety official, military service or affiliation with a group or organization.

The bill also requires law enforcement to report bias-motivated crimes to the FBI for data tracking.

Indiana is one of just five states without such a law and Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has said passing hate crimes legislation is his "top priority" this legislative session.

Many business leaders have also supported the bill, arguing state law needs to make it clear Indiana respects diversity so the state can attract talented workers.