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Senate to Debate Hate Crime Bill for Third Straight Year

Bill faces better reception in House this year, but first must survive Senate

(INDIANAPOLIS) - Indiana resumes the debate over a hate-crimes law Tuesday.

22 states make hate crimes a separate offense. LaGrange Senator Susan Glick's bill wouldn't do that. But if you're found guilty of a crime, the judge could use the targeting of a victim based on sex, race, religion, disability or sexual identity as grounds for a longer sentence.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) supports the measure, which passed the Senate in 2016 but didn't get a hearing in the House. He says it still treats the crime itself the same way regardless of who the victim is, but says it's appropriate for a judge to take motivation into account in deciding the proper punishment.

But Long isn't making any predictions about the bill's prospects. This will be the third straight year the Senate has considered the bill. Last year, it was pulled off the Senate floor without a vote, to avoid debating an amendment which would have allowed longer sentences if a victim was attacked for any characteristic. Supporters of the bill contend that would weaken the bill too much.

If the bill clears the Senate, it faces a friendlier welcome in the House than two years ago. House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says the bill wouldn't change the sentencing leeway that judges already have, but says after initial skepticism, he's concluded it's important to make the explicit statement that the state won't tolerate hate crimes.

Indiana is one of five states with no hate crime law of any kind. 23 states' laws are limited to sentencing, though Indiana would be one of only a handful of states to include sexual orientation in the list of protected groups.

(Photo: lenzjona/Getty Images)

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