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Will Lawmakers Advance Hate Crime Legislation This Session?

Here's what you might have missed this week at the statehouse.

Indiana’s proposed hate crimes legislation won’t advance in the House and could be dead for the session.

The General Assembly has long resisted enacting a hate crimes law and will likely leave the Hoosier State one of only five in the country without one.

This year’s version of a hate crimes bill doesn’t create a new law that punishes a person’s motivation for committing a crime. Instead, it makes that an enhancement during sentencing. Essentially, if a person commits a crime based in part because of the victim’s characteristics, such as age, race, sexual orientation or gender identity, a judge could use that factor to increase the penalty.

The bill won’t get a hearing in the House after easily clearing the Senate.

House Chairman Rep. Tom Washburne, R-Evansville, says there are too many other bills in his committee. And he notes that state law doesn’t limit what a judge considers during sentencing.

“[A] Judge can already look at that. With 20 bills in Courts and Criminal, I just had to make a decision about which ones we could hear and which ones we wouldn’t hear,” says Washburne.

Bill sponsor Rep. Randy Truitt, R-West Lafayette, hinted that controversy this session surrounding LGBT rights – and the inclusion in the bill of sexual orientation and gender identity – might have contributed to its failure in the House.

“It’s a topic that – unfortunately because of the atmosphere that we’re dealing in right now – is, I don’t think, getting a fair shake,” says Truitt.

The hates crimes language could be included in another bill before the end of session, but Washburne wouldn’t commit to supporting such a move.

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