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Expansion of Michigan hate crime law advances to House

 A view into the rotunda of the Michigan Capitol in Lansing.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
A view into the rotunda of the Michigan Capitol in Lansing. (Photo: Lester Graham/Michigan Public)

The Michigan Senate adopted two bills this week to expand the protections in Michigan’s ethnic intimidation law with broader protections.

The bills would create a new state hate crime law that also covers instances of threats and violence related to sexual orientation or gender identity, ethnicity, age or a disability.

Violations committed with firearms or other weapons could be considered aggravating factors punished with stiffer sentences. The bills were adopted on party-line votes.

“Nobody should be targeted or attacked because of who they are, period, whether it’s physical violence, verbal harassment, or the use of traumatizing symbols and paraphernalia,” said state Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit). “This legislation will finally bring justice and punishment that is commensurate with the true wounds of these crimes.”

The U.S. Justice Department reported 422 incidents in Michigan in 2022 that qualified as hate crimes under federal law.

The bills now go to the state House. If adopted, this would be the biggest change to Michigan’s hate crime laws since the ethnic intimidation law was first adopted in the 1980s.

A similar bill already adopted by the House and sent to the Senate would add gender identity or expression to attributes protected under Michigan’s hate crime act.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.