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Lame Duck Michigan Senate to Consider Hate Crime Legislation

December 5, 2008

Lansing, MI - Proponents of stiffer penalties for hate crimes have less than two weeks to convince Michigan's state senators to approve them. Legislation passed by the House and sent to the Senate expands the current definition of bias crimes to include sexual orientation, disability, and gender identity.

Lansing Police Chief Mark Alley, who supports the new legislation, says victims of hate crimes haven't felt protected by current laws.

"There are people who have been victims of hate crimes in the past who have been very reluctant to come forward to law enforcement because of their fear of not being supported by the judicial system."

Detroit's Triangle Foundation reports a 133-percent increase in crimes against members of Michigan's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-sexual community last year. Foundation Director Melissa Pope says the new legislation would provide Michigan's law enforcers with the tools to respond to hate crimes.

"We rank third in the nation for the highest number of hate crimes in a state. It seems this legislation is very necessary to begin having a response that really improves the quality of life here in Michigan."

Under the proposed legislation, bias-motivated crimes would be subject to more-severe punishment, including extended prison time. Opponents say the legislation is divisive and discriminatory because it segregates victims of crime into specially protected categories.

Tony Bruscato, Public News Service - MI