State Watch

Indiana lawmakers approve watered-down hate crimes bill

Indiana lawmakers passed a hate-crime bill Thursday that some of its original proponents called watered down, the Indy Star reports.

The bill, which would allow a judge to generally consider bias when determining the severity of a sentence, passed the Indiana state Senate on a 39-10 vote.

Two of the bill's writers, Sen. Ron Alting (R) and Sen. Greg Taylor (D), voted against the bill.

They rejected the bill after a floor amendment which removed specifically protected characteristics, including gender identity, race and sexual orientation.

"Democracy spoke. I lost. I didn't get the votes," Alting said, according to the Indy Star. "The majority spoke, and that's this great institution. And this is a senator that respects this institution."

Some lawmakers defended voting for the bill since it created some protections against hate crimes. Indiana is one of only five states without a law against hate crimes. 

Sen. Aaron Freeman (R) defended adding the amendment as being the only way the bill would pass the Senate where Republicans have a supermajority.

"At the risk of me and my family and my reputation, - God, go to Twitter you'll love that - I proposed to my colleagues a middle ground, a compromise, alternatives, something foreign to D.C., something foreign to our world in which we are living," he said. "I (stood) up, I offered an amendment: Here's something that can pass."

But Sen. Jean Breaux (D), who is African American, said she hoped the legislation would change in the future, the Star reported.

"Yes, this is personal, and your vote was personal to me," she said. 

Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) criticized the amendment, but celebrated the passage of something.

"We have a long way to go, a lot of work to do, and fortunately the time yet still to do it," he said in a statement following Tuesday's amendment. "I will continue to fight for the right ultimate outcome for our state and citizens this year so we're not right back here in the same place next year."

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