INDIANAPOLIS — Today, Republicans in the Indiana Senate removed the list of groups to be protected in a hate crimes bill expected to be up for a vote this week.
Indianapolis radio station WIBC reported that the bill was rewritten with a 37-19 vote. The list has been replaced with a catchall statement saying sentences could be strengthened for “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.
The original bill, which had included sexual orientation and gender identity along with race and religion, had the support of the Republican governor and the state’s business community.
A vote could be as soon as Wednesday.
Nuvo Newsweekly reported that Gov. Eric Holcomb released a statement that the new version of the bill would not get Indiana off the list of states with no hate crimes legislation. The newspaper also reported that the bill’s sponsors, both Republican, opposed the change to the bill.
After the amendment passed, the Indiana American Family Association, an organization against the original bill, released a statement claiming a “big win” on hate crimes legislation. On the other side, Indiana Forward, a group advocating for the legislation, released a statement saying they were disappointed in the decision and stand by Holcomb.
The Indiana General Assembly has a Republican supermajority. The bill can be passed with no Democrat votes.