LANSING, Mich. – In a late night session Thursday, the Michigan House passed a package of two bills to expand the state’s ethnic intimidation act. Under the bills, bias motivated crimes would be subject to more severe punishments, including extended prison time and upgrading of misdemeanor criminal acts to felonies.
“Triangle Foundation is thrilled to have had the opportunity to support law enforcement support a bill that will give law enforcement the tools necessary to prosecute hate crimes as appropriate,” said Melissa Pope, director of victim services for the Detroit based Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender anti-violence organization. “This will enable Michigan to become a state that protects all of its citizens.”
The set of bills expands the current definition of bias crimes to include sexual orientation, disability, and gender identity and/or expression. It also makes it a crime for targeting a person because they are perceived to be a member of a protected class.
The bills passed the Democratic controlled house on votes of 82-18 and 81-18. They are now on their way to the State Senate which is controlled by Republicans.
“Law enforcement is working really hard to lobby and educate the senate so they understand how much this will help them in decreasing the number of hate crimes in Michigan,” Pope said. “I actually have some hope (the bill will pass the Senate). I have found over the last couple of months that law enforcement is very dedicated to this. I think they will lobby very hard to get this bill passed.”