BY BTL STAFF
YPSILANTI – The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s department believes that an Ypsilanti man who was assaulted and robbed May 25 could have been targeted because he is gay.
According to the Ann Arbor News, the victim was attacked around 11:35 p.m. in the 8100 block of Autumn Woods Trail in Superior Township after leaving Powell’s Pub with a friend.
The victim sat alone, texting in his car, then noticed a car pull up. Soon after, four unknown suspects began to assault him. They stole his phone and fled in their vehicle. According to a Nixle alert, the investigation has indicated that the victim and his acquaintance may have been targeted due to their sexual orientation and followed home from the bar.
“Unfortunately, violence has long been the recourse of cowards and petty criminals who still cling to outdated biases and dying prejudices about the LGBTQ community. While members of the JTCC Board of Directors are extremely disappointed that Washtenaw County may be the site of another hate crime, we have utmost confidence in Sheriff Clayton and his department to carry out a full and thorough investigation to bring these violent criminals to justice – regardless of the motivation behind their heinous actions,” said Brad O’Conner, President of the Jim Toy Community Center (JTCC). “We have long known that members of the LGBT community are at a higher risk to be targeted for hate crimes; however, our community will not be bullied or beaten into the shadows, and JTCC strongly reaffirms our vision of creating an inclusive community where people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity are visible and live together in equality, respect and happiness.”
Michigan is one of just 18 states that do not include sexual orientation and one of only 22 states that do not include gender identity or gender expression in their hate crimes law. O’Conner has called upon the state legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder to update Michigan’s 84-year-old Ethnic Intimidation Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.
“As angry and disappointed as I am at the perpetrators of this assault, I’m equally outraged at our state government for continually failing to protect LGBTQ citizens from hate crimes. This legislature and our governor must take immediate action to update Michigan laws and provide our justice system with the tools needed to prosecute violent offenders for the appalling hate crimes they commit against our friends and neighbors,” O’Conner said.
State Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids, introduced legislation in 2014 to update the hate crime law with sponsorship from 37 lawmakers, including State Reps. Gretchen Driskell, D-Saline; Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor; David Rutledge, D-Superior Township; and Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor. After failing to receive a vote before the end of the 2014 legislative session, the legislation was re-introduced by Rep. Dillon as House Bill 4164 on Feb. 10.