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Breaking Down This Week's Hate Crimes Bill Debate

The statehouse in Indianapolis

(WFIU/WTIU News)

For the fifth year in a row, legislators are at odds over what type of hate crimes legislation Indiana needs. 

The Senate public policy committee heard three hours of testimony Monday on Senate Bill 12. The bill would allow judges to impose harsher sentences for crimes motivated by hate, and had a list of victim characteristics that included sexual orientation and gender identity. The majority of people, including several of Indiana's largest businesses, spoke in support of the proposal. 

But, just one day later, Sen. Aaron Freeman (R-Indianapolis) introduced an amendment that removes the list, and instead says a judge can consider bias when sentencing someone. Freeman says the change protects everyone. But, Democrats, business leaders and even Gov. Eric Holcomb criticized the change, saying it's not a true hate crimes law. 

That didn't stop the Republican supermajority in the Indiana Senate from passing the revised version of the bill on Thursday. It now moves to the House, where leaders have said they don't support a bill that includes a list of victim characteristics. That makes it unlikely the current language will change. 

And, legal experts say that could be problematic.

Robert Katz is a law professor at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law. He joined Joe Hren on Indiana Newsdesk to talk about potential issues with applying the law, if it's passed. 

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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