A majority of Hoosiers keep urging and hoping that Indiana legislators will do the right thing when it comes to basic decency and human rights. So far, those wishes have been thwarted.

The Republican supermajority on Tuesday rained bitter disappointment on the state when it voted for an amendment to gut a hate-crimes bill and eliminate its most important elements — specific protections including a person’s race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity.

On Monday, an Indiana Senate committee had approved a proposal including the list of protections by a 9-1 vote, a strong omen for future passage. But when the hate-crimes bill reached the Senate floor on Tuesday, amendments began flowing in, including the one to cut the heart out of the bill.

After emotional debate, it became clear that Senate Republicans had the votes to pass it and strip out the protection language that so many Hoosiers — including Gov. Eric Holcomb — wanted it to contain.

Indiana is only one of five states — the others are Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas and Wyoming — with no statute governing hate crimes. Each year it seems there is more momentum in the Hoosier state to advance such legislation and remove the stigma that Indiana is not a tolerant or welcoming state. Yet whenever it seems close to joining the overwhelming number of American states in adopting a hate crimes law, the resistance rises to maintain the status quo.

Hoosiers clearly favor such a law. A statewide poll in late January by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce demonstrated strong support for passage of a meaningful and comprehensive hate-crimes statute. The support crosses party lines. Overall, 74 percent agree a strong law is needed.

Yet the legislature finds new ways to say no. This time, it gutted the specific protections and instead inserted timid language that allows judges to generally consider bias as an aggravating circumstance in a crime.

Gov. Holcomb, also a Republican, was quick to point out that the Senate’s amendment made the bill inadequate and that it “does not get Indiana off the list of states without a bias crimes law.”

We are particularly disappointed that state Sen. Jon Ford of Terre Haute joined his fellow Republicans in voting to gut the bill. We were pleased, however, that Sen. Eric Bassler, a Washington Republican whose district reaches into the southern portion of this area, voted against the amendment.

While the Senate’s action hurts chances for an effective hate-crimes law this year, all is not lost. The Indiana House still has a chance to re-insert the specific protections into the bill and get it back on track for potential passage during the conference committee process. We urge House lawmakers to do so.

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