Longer prison terms a possibility in proposed Indiana hate crime bill

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INDIANAPOLIS (WOWO): For the first time, Indiana is considering longer prison terms for hate crimes.

Indiana is one of five states without a hate crimes law. African-American legislators have sought one for 18 years without getting a hearing. Now a Senate committee has unanimously endorsed more prison time for targeting a victim because of his race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or transgender status.

Indiana law allows a range of sentences for different crimes. The bill would let judges use evidence of hate crimes to push sentences toward the high end.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry says crimes from cross-burnings and painted swastikas to assaults based on a person’s status are all too common. He says such attacks are intended to send a message to a broader community, not just the victim and deserve harsher punishment.

The groups listed in the bill parallel those protected from discrimination in employment and public accommodations, with a notable exception: sexual orientation and identity. The hearing on the bill comes a day before the long-awaited debate over extending civil rights protections to gays and lesbians.

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