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Antigay Group Helps Strip LGBTQ, Race From Indiana Hate Crimes Bill

Antigay Group Helps Strip LGBTQ, Race From Indiana Hate Crimes Bill

Republicans and the American Family Association worked to remove the specific groups from the proposed legislation, but the GOP governor voices opposition to the change.

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Indiana is one of only five states to not have a hate crimes law, and legislators' efforts to remedy that have proved disastrous.

Minority groups that would be covered under a new proposed bill -- which would add enhanced penalties for those who attack others because of specific characteristics -- were removed Tuesday by a Senate committee. The bill no longer includes "race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability" in its language; it now leaves the decision to add stricter sentences to individual judges, according to TheIndianapolis Star.

Republicans and the American Family Association -- the latter lobbied against the creation of any hate crimes legislation -- cheered the removal, with one GOP legislator saying the new bill "protects everyone." Democrats, meanwhile, were furious and staged a walkout.

"It might be worse than RFRA," Senator Greg Taylor, a Democrat serving Indianapolis, told the Star.

Taylor was referencing Indiana's 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bill signed by then-Governor Mike Pence that allowed businesses and individuals to discriminate based on their religion, often against LGBTQ people. After enormous backlash and corporate threats, Pence softened the language of the law.

Indiana's full Senate could vote on the denuded hate crimes law this week. If it passes, it will move it to the GOP-controlled House, and finally Republican governor Eric Holcomb. The governor though, does not support the bill in its current form.

"The version of the bill approved [Tuesday] by the Senate does not get Indiana off the list of states without a bias crime law," Holcomb said in a statement. "We have a long way to go, a lot of work to do, and fortunately the time yet still to do it. 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."

The other states without hate crimes laws are Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, and Wyoming. Georgia previously passed a hate crimes bill in 2000 without mentioned specific categories or groups, but the Supreme Court later invalidated it, calling it "unconstitutionally vague."

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