LANSING – With the recent and highly publicized savage anti-gay murder of 72-year-old Andrew Anthos, BTL decided to find out where anti-bullying and hate crimes legislation stood in the legislative process and what their potential for passage was.
Sean Kosofosky, director of policy for the Triangle Foundation, reports anti-bullying legislation has the votes to pass both the House and the Senate. “The anti-bullying legislation is seeing movement,” Kosofosky says, “because child advocacy is very popular right now.”
A hearing on the bill has been scheduled for March 13 at 10:30 a.m. at the Anderson House Building, room 519.
But State Senator Gilda Jacobs has some concerns.
She says she was in a meeting of state superintendents the other day, and they were opposed to the legislation as another “unfunded mandate.”
“It was the first push back I have heard on that issue,” she said. “Yeah it does (concern me). I thought that would be a slam dunk kind of thing.”
She says there is obviously need to do education with the education community. “I think that those that want to see that bill passed have to do some work with the education community. This is a little bit of a wake-up, call where we need to concentrate come activity, some education activity.”
House Majority Floor Leader Steve Tobocman from Detroit says he thinks anti-bullying legislation will pass. “Hopefully anti-bullying will be the first piece of legislation passed and we can build on that success.”
Anti-bullying is also identified as an immediate priority of LBGT organizations in the state. The groups established five priority bills, with three the most important. These bills are anti-bullying, second parent adoption, amendment to Elliot-Larsen for civil rights protections, hate crime legislation and repeal of archane laws.
Kosofosky says hate crimes legislation and repeal of archane laws are low priority for activists at the capitol right now. “The hate crime legislation will not immediately address the quality of life in our community like the others will. It mainly addresses the bad guy.”
Hate crimes legislation is important, he says, but priorities on legislation are made based on the number of people impacted. “We don’t make legislation a priority based on specific incidents, we make it on how many people it will protect. Protecting our livelihoods, our families and our homes are our top priorities.”
He applauds the movement of many legislators to “jump” all over the issue of hate crimes legislation, and credits attention to the savage murder of Anthos. He says the legislature is ultimately responsible for prioritizing the legislative agenda. “So if the legislature moves this to a top priority good for them.”
Jacobs says the hate crimes legislation has a fifty-fifty chance of passage. “I think we have to wait and see who co-sponsors them. That will be the telling situation.”
She says that while the Anthos murder was horrific and a “glaring example” of hate crimes in Michigan, she has not heard any real movement from her colleagues.
“It has to have an effect on the legislators. It brings it home, then there is a greater chance,” she says of moving hate crimes legislation.
Kosofosky encourages residents of the state to visit the Triangle Foundation website and read the legislation in question, then find out who their representative and senator is.
“They should know their legislator. They should be in regular contact,” says Kosofsky. “They need to tell their legislators they care about LBGT issues.”
He also encourages residents to attend the upcoming lobbying days. The first will be March 28 at the state capitol and will be specifically focused on anti-bullying legislation, while the second is slated for May 1 and will focus on second-parent adoption legislation.