CLARKSVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) – Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said Thursday he will push for a hate crimes law as part of his formal agenda for the 2019 legislature.

Indiana is among five states without a specific law, although legislators have tried to enact one for several years. A legislative study commission made no recommendation to lawmakers at a meeting last month.

But speaking in Clarksville, Holcomb said the law is “long overdue” and will be among his priorities when the Republican-controlled General Assembly convenes in January. He previously lent support for a law after Nazi graffiti was spray painted on a suburban Indianapolis synagogue last summer.

Some opponents have warned of bills that selectively protect certain groups but not others, or penalize speech or thought.

“There was this myth that you were going to criminalize thought. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Holcomb, a Republican, told reporters. “And so maybe it will take some additional voices -- such as mine -- to be very clear about this that we can and we must get this done.”

Holcomb declined to discuss specific details he’d like to see in a bill, but he said he supports language similar to that in the governor’s office employment policy. Those guidelines protect workers from harassment and discrimination based on race, religion, national identity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or other factors. 

A GOP-sponsored bill in the 2018 Indiana legislature would have let courts hand down longer sentences for property and other crimes committed because of a "perceived or actual" bias, including on the basis of race, national identity or religion.

It and a similar Democrat-backed bill both died in Senate committees.

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