LANSING – State Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) is introducing a bill to expand Michigan’s “ethnic intimidation” statute to protect people in Michigan’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The ethnic intimidation law makes it possible for prosecutors to seek charges against someone who seeks to harm another person on the basis of race, color, religion or gender. Dillon’s bill would add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list.

“Too many of our neighbors have been threatened, harmed or even killed simply on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Dillon said. “We need to take a strong stand against this intimidation and hatred. By extending the protections of the ethnic intimidation law to members of the LGBT community, we make it possible for law enforcement and prosecutors to hold people accountable for their hateful, vicious and cruel acts.”

Michigan has seen several examples of alleged hate crimes against LGBT people in the past year, including:

• The fatal shooting of a transgender person in Detroit on Aug. 15.

• Two nonfatal shootings of two transgender women on Aug. 15 and Aug. 17 in Detroit.

• The breaking-and-entering, robbery and vandalism of a home occupied by a Kalamazoo lesbian couple on July 16 – graffiti left at their home included homophobic slurs and a warning to “move or die.”

• The murder of a 53-year-old transgender woman in Detroit in November 2013. Her body had been so badly burnt that it couldn’t be identified for 11 days.

Following the Kalamazoo vandalism incident, police told reporters that hate crimes charges couldn’t be pursued on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity because Michigan’s ethnic intimidation act doesn’t protect the LGBT community.

“I am a strong believer in tolerance, but brutal attacks on our fellow citizens simply because they happen to be a certain race, follow a different religion or are gay or transgendered are intolerable,” Dillon said. “We cannot allow hate crimes like these to go unchallenged. By including the LGBT community in our state’s hate crime protection law, we are sending the clear message that everyone in Michigan deserves equality, dignity and protection. I urge my colleagues to show they support justice for all by supporting this bill.”