A proposed Indiana hate crimes law has been endorsed by a state legislative committee.
The Senate Public Policy Committee voted 9-1 on Monday to advance the bill to the full Senate after hearing nearly three hours of public testimony from opponents and supporters. The bill would specifically allow judges to impose additional penalties against those who commit crimes fueled by biases regarding traits such as race, religion and sexual orientation.
Indiana is one of just five states without such a law and Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has said the state is “long overdue” to adopt a hate crimes law.
Repeated efforts for an Indiana law have failed amid fierce opposition from conservatives who maintain it would unfairly create specially-protected classes of victims and wrongly restrict free speech.
Dozens of speakers supporting the bill included business, university and religious group leaders, along with Hispanic college students and transgender people who described threatening situations.