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Indiana bill stiffening hate crime penalties fails in Senate

By Timothy Mclaughlin

(Reuters) - An Indiana bill that aimed to allow judges to stiffen penalties for people who committed bias-motivated crimes failed to gain the support of lawmakers and will not advance in the state legislature, the bill's author said.

Senate Bill 439, written by Republican state senator Susan Glick and introduced last month, died on the senate floor, Glick said Monday, after amendments weakening the bill were proposed.

The failure of the bill came as a Jewish community centers and schools in at least 13 U.S. states, including Indiana, reported receiving bomb threats, the fifth wave of such threats this year that have stoked fears of a resurgence of anti-Semitism.

The state is just one of five that does not have a hate crimes law on the books. A similar measure introduced last year also failed.

"This bill sought to give judges the ability to increase penalties for bias-motivated crimes," Glick said in a statement.

"However, after discussions with my colleagues, it has become apparent that there is a difference of opinion on various potential amendments to the bill, making it difficult to find consensus on a path forward."

The bill would have allowed judges to impose tougher sentences for crimes that were motivated by factors including sexual orientation, race, gender, gender identity and national origin.

The legislation was opposed by some Christian conservative groups like the Indiana Family Institute, which said that the bill would politicize crimes.

"For example, if SB 439 were passed into law a 90-year-old grandmother who is assaulted because she is wearing a 'Make America Great Again' shirt would get less justice than a 25-year-old man who is assaulted because he is perceived to be gay," the group said in a statement opposing the bill.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin; Editing by Alan Crosby)

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