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INDIANAPOLIS -- Senate Republicans have rewritten a hate crimes bill
Governor Holcomb has asked legislators to make Indiana the 46th state with a hate crime law. The bill wouldn't create a new crime, but would allow longer sentences if someone convicted of a crime was found to have deliberately targeted someone based on race, religion, sexual orientation or similar factors.
On a 33-17 vote, senators deleted that list of covered groups, replacing it with a catchall statement that sentences could be lengthened for reasons "including bias."
Indianapolis Republican Aaron Freeman, the amendment's author, argues any list of specific protected classes undermines the principle of treating all citizens equally.
Senate Republicans have been torn for years over the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in a hate crimes bill. Carmel Democrat J-D Ford, Indiana's first openly gay legislator, says removing the list "would be saying people like me don't exist."
East Chicago Democrat Lonnie Randolph delivered an emotional, increasingly angry 12-minute floor speech, sketching the history of the black experience in America, from the creation of blood banks and the African-Americans behind the scenes of the space program to the horrors of lynching. He pleaded with legislators to show, not tell, their respect for him as a human being, and denounced the amendment as excluding African-Americans from broader society.
A final vote could come as early as Wednesday.