Kolb introduces hate crimes, human rights legislation

By |2005-06-23T09:00:00-04:00June 23rd, 2005|News|

LANSING – On June 16, State Representative Chris Kolb introduced legislation to protect LGBT citizens from discrimination and hate crimes. Kolb timed the introduction of the legislation to honor both Pride Month and victims of anti-gay violence and discrimination.
House Bills 4954 and 4955 would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of characteristics covered under the Michigan Ethnic Intimidation Act and incorporate a penalty for violations into the Michigan Penal Code.
House Bill 4956 would amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression as protected categories.
All three bills have bi-partisan report. Though Democrats make up the majority of the bills’ co-sponsors, three Republican legislators have co-sponsored House Bill 4954, and two Republicans have co-sponsored House Bills 4955 and 4956.
Kolb was adamant about the need for the hate crimes bills. “Assault, intimidation, and violence against any person who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender cannot be tolerated in any decent society,” he said. “Incidents of violence are on the rise, and the time for talk is over. It’s time Michigan stepped into the 21st century and stopped attacks against the LGBT community.”
A recent report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs says that Michigan was one of the few states in the country that reported an increase in incidents between 2003 and 2004 against the LGBT community.
Kolb also stressed the need for protection against discrimination. In Michigan, you can’t be fired from your job or discriminated against on the basis of your height, weight, or marital status – but you can be fired because of your gender identity or expression or your sexual orientation. The Michigan Court of Appeals found in 1993 that harassment or discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation is not protected under the Michigan Civil Rights Act.
“Most people are astonished to hear that sexual orientation is not covered under Michigan’s civil rights law,” said Kolb. “This bill does not seek to grant lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered individuals ‘special’ or ‘extra’ rights. It looks to guarantee the rights of everyone and treat everyone equally under the law.”
The term “special rights” was first used in the 1800s by a U.S. court as reason to deny a case seeking civil rights for African-Americans.
“Michigan residents are fired, denied promotions and job opportunities not because they are not qualified or are doing a bad job, but solely because of blatant discrimination based upon sexual orientation. This type of discrimination goes against the very core principles that our country was founded on,” said Kolb.
Rachel Crandall, MSW, executive director of TransGender Michigan, was pleased that Kolb remembered to included protections for gender identity or expression in the bills.
“It’s important it got put into the bills, because the bills would be very flawed without it,” she said. “Many people don’t realize that gender expression and identity [protections] not only protect transgender people, but also protect gay people. Without them, an LGB person can be discriminated against for gender expression issues….It isn’t only to protect the transgender community, but because the whole gay community is not protected without it.”
Speak OUT
Contact your state representative and ask him or her to co-sponsor House Bills 4954, 4955 and 4956. If your representative has already signed on as a co-sponsor, be sure to thank her or him. To get contact information for your state representative, call the Michigan State House Clerk’s office at 517-373-0135 or visit http://house.michigan.gov/find_a_rep.asp.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.