Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is urging Republicans in the state legislature to pass a hate crimes law.

He argues it’s dumb for Indiana to be only one of five states in the U.S. without a law targeting crimes caused by biases over race, religion and sexual orientation.

I tend to agree with the governor, which, of course makes me a one of those RINOs – Republican In Name Only. Sometimes it’s tough being just a little right of center.

Holcomb said the new law should follow the state's employee anti-harassment policy, which has a list that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

During his state of the state address Tuesday evening he said, "Businesses interested in Indiana care about this issue, but it's not just about business. At heart, this has to do with people's dignity and how we treat one another."

That seems kind of hard to argue with, but plenty of Republicans think a hate crimes law is a bad idea.

Not the least of whom are a couple of our local Republican lawmakers – Kurt Nisly and Dave Wolkins.

Nisly thinks current state law already allows judges to modify sentences based on crime motivations, which is true, even though protected classes aren't specified.

"This gives equal protection for all, the way that we already have it," Nisly said. "Other states should be copying us, instead of us trying to copy other states."

Yeah, I suppose judges do have that authority. But in 35 years of covering courts in the newspaper, I don’t recall a judge modifying a sentence based on hate.

Wolkins is more pragmatic. He pretty much tries to go with what he believes his constituents want. I respect that.

Last October Wolkins talked with our reporter David Slone. He said hate crimes laws have become a bigger issue over the past few years.

Wolkins: “I still think overall our district will oppose it. We already have a number of enhanced penalties. We give the judges quite a bit of freedom and if it is an honest-to-goodness hate crime, there’s some extenuating things they could do. It’ll be a good discussion this year.”

Frankly, not too long ago I felt the same way. So I guess my take on this type of legislation has evolved.

I used to think if you intentionally killed somebody, it didn’t really matter what motivated you. If you killed someone because of race, they’re no more dead than if you killed them because they stole your wife.

You’re going to get life in prison either way.

But then I started to think about other, less heinous things people could do where a hate crime designation could really make a difference.

Let’s say some black kids spray paint graffiti on a black church.

That’s vandalism.

If they catch the kids, that’s a fairly minor misdemeanor.

But what if a group of white kids spray paints swastikas and KKK on a black church? Would anyone argue that’s the same crime??Just a simple vandalism?

I think, if nothing else, a hate crimes law could deter these types of crimes and perhaps even make some folks adjust their behavior with regard to people who are different than they are.

And frankly, I just don’t see a downside to passing the law.

It’s not as if this law lends itself to wrongly accusing people of hate crimes.

Plus, I don’t see this as a case where our state is being perceived as a great defender of equal protection by voting down a hate crimes law year after year.

More likely, we’re viewed as backward.

I’m not saying the avoidance of looking backward should be the sole reason to pass this or any law, for that matter.

But truly, if we want to attract the best and brightest people and businesses to move here, it wouldn’t hurt to look a little more progressive once in a while.