Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
Hate crimes in Michigan more than doubled in 2007 from the previous year’s total, according to a report released Tuesday by the Triangle Foundation. The annual report, compiled with the cooperation of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, showed that Michigan led the nation in increased hate crime reports. A total of 226 incidents were reported and documented in 2007, compared to 97 in 2006, for an increase of 133 percent.
“I am saddened but not surprised by these numbers,” said Melissa Pope, Triangle’s director of victim services, at Tuesday’s press conference in the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in downtown Detroit. “Hate violence is unlike any other crime in America. Most crime is motivated by personal gain, but hate violence is different. Hate violence is purely about victimizing a person because of who they are. It is a form of terrorism that punishes entire communities.”
For the first time, Triangle’s report included incidences of discrimination in the state that were not technically illegal, such as a landlord refusing to rent to a gay tenant. There were 72 such instances of anti-gay discrimination in 2007. These instances, however, were not included in the year’s total.
Possibly contributing to the spike in numbers over the previous year, Pope said, is the expansion of Triangle with the opening of a West Michigan office and the hire of a second full-time staff member in the victim services department. Another factor, according to Pope, is the February decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals that ruled that as a result as the passage of Proposition 2 in 2004, which made same-sex marriage unconstitutional, state-funded institutions may no longer offer domestic partnership benefits. The Appeals Court decision was affirmed by the state supreme court earlier this month.
“This was the first time in history that a court has ruled that a state’s definition of marriage also prohibited domestic partner benefits,” Pope said. “The decision set off a chain reaction of public employers across the state threatening to eliminate health insurance for gay and lesbian couples and ratcheted up the rhetoric by anti-gay activists in Michigan. This decision institutionalizes and legitimizes discrimination against the LGBT community.
“The message is clear,” continued Pope. “LGBT individuals and their families are not equal. We believe the ramifications of this message of intolerance are reflected in the increased anti-LGBT and HIV-positive activity in our state.”
A breakdown of the report shows LGBTs experienced 101 incidences of intimidation and harassment, 46 assaults, 36 cases of police entrapment and 21 episodes of vandalism among other crimes. In addition, the report includes two murders. In February 2007, Andrew Anthos died 10 days after being struck on the head with a metal pipe outside his Detroit apartment building. Witnesses say the assailant, who has never been apprehended, spewed anti-gay expletives in the process of attacking Anthos. The second murder occurred in August when Saginaw resident Charles Darr was strangled in his home. Triangle believes the murder may have been a pickup crime. Both victims were elderly.
Also at the press conference was Dan Levy, the chief legal officer with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Levy read a statement from the department’s director, Linda Parker. “In a state experiencing such profound segregation, it is important that we in Michigan never forget the admonishment of the late Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan, who stated, ‘If society allows wrongs to go unchallenged, the impression is created that those wrongs have the approval of the majority,'” the statement read in part.
Scheduled to speak at the press conference but not in attendance was Angie Potter, who was assaulted because of her sexual orientation while staying in a Michigan hotel. A quote of Potter’s was included in the press materials Triangle distributed.
“I was shocked to find out that the attack on me was not [legally considered] a hate crime in Michigan,” Potter’s quote read. “I looked for help but I was met with more disrespect.”
Two other victims were also no-shows at the press conference, but Pope said that victims often do not wish to speak to the press or be photographed. Many, she said, often even refuse to give their names when they call the agency.
“That’s something that we at Triangle never blame them for,” she said. “It’s hard to bear the burden of discrimination.”