By Dawn Wolfe
LANSING – Rep. Chris Kolb, a Democrat from Ann Arbor, will soon reintroduce two important pieces of legislation for the LGBT community. One bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Elliott-Larsen provides protection from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. There is no state or federal law prohibiting discrimination because of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression; adding these to the list of protected classes of people would provide civil rights protections statewide.
The other legislation is a two-bill package to add sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to Michigan’s hate crime law. The current law provides for up to two years in prison for harassing someone because of his or her race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. Members of the LGBT community are among the most targeted groups for hate crimes.
Rep. Kolb is seeking other state representatives to co-sponsor the legislation with him. Co-sponsors help show strong support for legislation and enhance the possibility of the bill’s passing. Several legislators have already signed on, but many more have not.
The following representatives have signed on as sponsors:
Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act: Reps. Kolb, Miller, Donigan, Tobocman, Alma Smith, Byrnes, Condino, Lipsey, Leland, Anderson, Vagnozzi, Gleason, Meisner, Zelenko, and Murphy.
Hate Crimes: Reps. Kolb, Donigan, Tobocman, Alma Smith, Condino, Lipsey, Leland, Byrnes, Anderson, Vagnozzi, Gleason, Meisner, Zelenko and Murphy.
Be sure to write or call them with a word of thanks. If your state rep has not sponsored the legislation, contact them and urge them to do so.
State Rep. Marie Donigan, a Democrat from Royal Oak, recently introduced House Bill 4222, which would create the Sexual Assault Victim’s Forensic Medical Intervention and Treatment act. If passed, the Act would levy a special fine on people who are convicted of criminal sexual conduct or attempted criminal sexual conduct. Proceeds from the fines would be funneled through the Family Independence Agency to agencies that collect sexual assault evidence kits, provide specialized assistance to victims, and operate in conjunction with a local sexual assault crisis center, among other requirements. Funds would also be used for forensic medical intervention related training.
Currently, agencies that provide counseling to sexual assault victims in addition to collecting the medical evidence necessary to prosecute their abusers struggle to raise the funds they need to stay in business. As a result, victims can end up facing the embarrassment of having to go to an emergency room rather than being able to receive the specialized support they need and deserve. Forcing the perpetrators to pay for their victims’ initial care is one way to ensure a steady funding stream for these important agencies. They would also fine minors who are convicted of CSC, but judges will have the option of waiving the fine for minors.
Contact your state representatives and let them know how you feel about these important bills. To find your state representative go to http://www.vote-smart.org and enter your 9 digit zip code. Postal and email addresses will be displayed for your representative. You can also call your local Secretary of State’s office. If you don’t have Internet access, call the state House Clerk’s office at 517-373-0135.