Legislation targeting hate crimes is advancing in Indiana, one of five states without such a law.
The measure would not create a new crime but would allow a judge to consider imposing a tougher sentence on crimes motivated by a victim's perceived or actual race, religion, sex, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation, among other things. An approved amendment extends protections to targeted off-duty law enforcement officers.
A Senate panel approved the measure 6-3 Tuesday. A similar measure cleared the Senate last year but died in the House.
Opponents argue the legislation is unnecessary because the criminal code doesn't prevent a judge from considering hate. They say it creates special protected classes that leave some people out and treats victims of the same crime differently.