We all know the expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include the LGBTQ+ community has been addressed.
State law now bans someone from being fired or denied housing simply because of their personal relationships or whichever gender they identify with.
But friends of the LGBTQ+ community in the Legislature aren’t done passing laws designed to protect the state’s historically marginalized communities.
Next up is expanding the state’s hate crime statute to crack down on those who may not physically harm another but do intimidate or threaten them.
The House is already holding hearings on the bills, which would criminalize such things as parading around a Black family’s home in white robes with pointed hoods.
Those who spray paint a swastika on a synagogue could also get hit with a two-year, $2,000 criminal sentence for ethnic intimidation on top of whatever other charges come with the defacing of private property.
In a House committee this week on the bills, the following real-life example was laid out.
Je Donna Dinges, a Detroit native, said her family was a target of ethnic intimidation in 2021 when her Grosse Pointe Park neighbor displayed a Ku Klux Klan flag in his window, which was a broomstick away from her window.
The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office determined there wasn’t enough evidence to charge the neighbor with ethnic intimidation because the current law requires physical contact, damage, destruction, defacement of property or threats.
“My daughter and I were terrified. My daughter would awaken from her sleep with nightmares of our neighbor shooting through the dining room and killing us,” said Dinges, who formed an ethnic intimidation work group in 2021.
“He couldn’t be prosecuted because he did not harm us physically.”
“Had this legislation been in place, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy would have been able to bring charges,” she added. “He would have been held accountable.”
The panel learned transgender women of color, in particular, are disproportionately impacted by hate crimes.
What else is coming from lawmakers?
An end to “conversion therapy” on minors is also moving its way through the Senate. The first hearing on a bill to make the practice illegal also took place this week. Michigan would be the 22nd state to end the practice if signed into law.
Described as a dangerous and widely discredited practice, conversion therapy tends to come with a religious bent for those few practitioners who believe homosexuality is a condition that can and must be “cured.”
Not only does conversion therapy tend not to work, but it reportedly drives youths to suicide at rates double that of their gay peers.
Expect to see these bills being brought up on the Senate floor before Pride Month is over.
Down the line, Sen. Jeremy Moss, the state’s first openly gay senator, would like to see the repeal of the 2004 One-Man-One-Woman-marriage constitutional amendment.
It’s functionally obsolete at the moment, but so was the state’s 1931 abortion ban until the U.S. Supreme overturned Roe v. Wade. What’s stopping this same court from overturning Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision that allowed for gay marriages?
“If that is threatened, we have to act with urgency to repeal our marriage bans that could potentially dissolve marriages and relationships and threaten financial security for a whole class of people overnight,” Moss said.
Overturning the 2004 constitutional amendment would require a separate constitutional amendment and a vote of the people.
The Democrats don’t have a legislative supermajority to put such a measure on the ballot, so groups like Equality Michigan and the Human Rights Coalition are putting their energy and resources behind more “low-hanging fruit” while they have this “historic opportunity” with a Democratic-controlled Legislature.
At some point, this, too, is coming, considering the LGBTQ+ community is at the beginning of reversing years of discriminatory laws and practices.
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