The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled last week that the state’s ethnic intimidation statute extends to transgender individuals. Under the statute, a charge of ethnic intimidation can be levied if the victim was targeted because of their race, color, religion, gender or national origin. The Court of Appeals, overturning a lower court ruling, decided that transgender individuals were covered under the category of gender.
“The transgender community is at heightened risk for intimidation and bias-based crimes, and I applaud the Court for making clear that gender intimidation includes intimidation based on a person being transgender,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement. “I also want to thank Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and the Fair Michigan Justice Project for their dedication to protecting vulnerable communities from violence by pursuing this important case.”
Worthy released her own statement on the ruling, saying she “could not be more pleased that the Court of Appeals has reinstated these charges and recognized that transgender citizens are now officially included under the Ethnic Intimidation Act. This is a huge win for the protection of the transgender community.”
The case at hand, People of MI v Deonton Rogers, stems from a July 2018 incident in which Rogers allegedly shot a transgender woman he encountered at a gas station. Rogers reportedly verbally harassed the transgender woman — calling her gay and asking to see her penis — before pulling a gun on her. A struggle ensued over the gun, and the woman was shot in the shoulder.
Charges against Roberts initially included ethnic intimidation. But when the case came before the Wayne County Circuit Court, a judge dismissed the charge on the basis that transgender people were not included in the statute. The Court of Appeals ruling reinstated the charge.
Alanna Maguire, president of Fair Michigan, an organization dedicated to advocacy, education and outreach regarding LGBTQ+ men’s and women’s civil rights, called the ruling an “historic victory for the transgender community. By affirming that the definition of gender in our state’s ethnic intimidation law includes transgender people, the Court has granted greater justice for crime victims.”
Maguire, who is married to Nessel, said the impact the ruling will have cannot be overstated.
“Charging ethnic intimidation is a powerful tool that can be used to protect our most vulnerable communities.”