Indiana Senate Removes Race And Gender Protections From Hate Crimes Bill

Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville.Screengrab/Comcast Local TV Network/YouTube

Republicans amended a hate crimes bill to remove all protected characteristics, such as race and sexual orientation.

Republican lawmakers in Indiana are close to passing a hate crimes proposal but not before the measure was defanged by an amendment to remove all protected groups, according to the Indy Star, including gender identity, race and sexual orientation.

Rather than specify protected characteristics, Senate Bill 12 will simply allow judges to consider bias more generally, under the guise that Republicans do not wish to unintentionally exclude anyone as a protected class.

Seven Republicans voted with Democrats against the amendment, including Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, and Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, who are authors of the bill.

Democrats reportedly staged a walkout in protest.

"You don’t have to agree with how somebody lives to respect their ability to live freely and responsibly in this state," said Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis. "But when you take that ability away, knowing that they have been targeted, it is a shame and this is a disaster for the state of Indiana.

Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said the conversation surrounding such legislation “has always been philosophical.”

"Do you include a list in which you can maybe leave somebody off, or the court could interpret somebody not included in that, or do you make it more general so that everybody can be included?"

Likewise, Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, who authored the amendment, said the bill now “covers everyone.”

Republican Governor Eric Holcomb has not indicated whether he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk but lamented that the amended bill "does not get Indiana off the list of states without a bias crime law."

"We have a long way to go, a lot of work to do, and fortunately the time yet still to do it," the governor said. "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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