Hoosiers are clearly demanding that their representatives in the Indiana General Assembly listen to them and take action on their behalf by adopting a comprehensive hate-crimes law. Unfortunately, lawmakers continue to do absolutely the wrong thing.

Despite heavy support for a law that offers specific protections to those most vulnerable to discrimination and violent actions, the Indiana House has found a way to say "no" while pretending to address a complex issue in a positive way. 

The House this week adopted an amendment into an unrelated bill giving lip service to crimes of bias but refusing to specify personal characteristics that are most targeted for hate crimes such as race, religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity. The House later passed the full bill.

The Republican supermajority in the House orchestrated the action in a way that denied the public any input. Rather than conduct a committee hearing on the version of the bill that had passed the Senate, which was itself inadequate, the House inserted new language that went further than the Senate bill, but not nearly far enough. By being inserted into another bill, the amendment could receive no public feedback or comment. What's more, the amendment was passed by voice vote, meaning the vote will not be registered on any lawmaker's voting record.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has been a strong advocate for a comprehensive hate-crimes bill, lent his support to the amended bill. While Holcomb's support may indicate that he realized that this compromise was the best he was going to get, it's disappointing that he was willing to throw in the towel so soon. To his credit, he has said subsequently that he will continue pushing for a specific list in a hate-crimes bill. The House bill now goes back to the Senate for consideration. 

The Republican supermajority's hangup is on giving specific protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Yet those groups are among those frequently targeted for crimes based on their characteristics. Those groups need to be listed specifically in any hate-crimes law.

It remains to be seen whether this nonspecific version of a law is enough to remove Indiana from the list of five states that have no such law. But it doesn't really matter. Removal from the list, which does tarnish the state's image as a tolerant and inclusive culture, isn't the ultimate goal. Rather, Indiana must do the right thing for the right reasons. A comprehensive hate-crimes law is what Indiana needs, and anything short of that isn't good enough for the people of this state.

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