Legislation to strengthen Michigan’s response to rising hate crimes, overhaul ethnic intimidation statute for first time since 1988 passage

LANSING, Mich., April 26, 2023 — This week, State Representative Noah Arbit (D-West Bloomfield), alongside State Representative Kristian Grant (D-Grand Rapids) and State Representative Ranjeev Puri (D-Canton) introduced long-awaited landmark legislation to strengthen Michigan’s outdated and inadequate hate crime laws.

For more than a decade, Michigan has experienced a severe rise in hate crimes, with Black, LGBTQ+, Jewish, Asian, and Muslim communities among the most targeted. According to the Michigan State Police, the number of reported hate crimes and bias incidents in Michigan rose every year between 2015 and 2020.

The Michigan Hate Crime Act (HB 4474–Arbit, HB 4475–Grant) would overhaul Michigan’s Ethnic Intimidation Statute, which was passed in 1988 after the murder of Vincent Chin. The Michigan Hate Crime Act would expand the basis on which hate crimes can be targeted to include: sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, physical or mental disability, ethnicity, and age; update sentencing guidelines, and begin to develop a restorative justice approach to hate crimes.

“No one in Michigan should ever be made to feel unsafe because of who they are, or what community they belong to,” Rep. Arbit said. “As a proud Jew and gay man, this fight is personal to me. I ran for office to take on rising hate and extremism; today, after months of work, I am proud to introduce the Michigan Hate Crime Act and the Institutional Desecration Act alongside Rep. Grant and Rep. Puri, and deliver on my promise to transform Michigan from a national laggard to a national leader in hate crime prevention, intervention, and response. This legislation will provide improved tools to respond, pursue justice and accountability, and create opportunities to reduce hate violence in Michigan.”

“I am honored to partner with Rep. Arbit and Rep. Puri on this critical and necessary legislation,” added Rep. Grant. “I look forward to approaching rising hate crimes with the same seriousness that we address all other crimes in our state. In 2021, African Americans were the target of 43% of all reported hate crimes or bias incidents in Michigan. This hits home for me. It is imperative to our constituents and our communities that we work to eradicate this poison from our state. I look forward to working with my colleagues to see our bills signed into law.”

The Institutional Desecration Act (HB 4476–Arbit, HB 4477–Puri) would prohibit the targeted defacement, destruction, and vandalism of institutions and communal property, including houses of worship, cultural or community centers, and businesses as a hate crime. The legislation would provide a more appropriate tool for Michiganders to pursue justice and accountability for hate crimes targeting faith-based institutions and other types of communal property.

“I am deeply concerned with the rise in hate crimes across our nation in recent years,” Rep. Puri said. “Every single person should be able to live their life as their true authentic self without fear. Updating our hate crime law to include protections for additional personal characteristics, as well as institutional desecration, helps ensure that our laws reflect the core tenet that Michigan is a place where every person can and should feel safe. This package sends a strong message that we will not tolerate any form of hate or discrimination in our communities, and that those who commit hate crimes will be held responsible. By standing up against hate and bigotry, we can create a safer and more inclusive place to call home for every Michigander.”

“Our state’s current hate crime laws are inadequate to deter and properly prosecute those that target Michigan residents with fear and hatred, simply for who they are,” said Attorney General Dana Nessel. “Hate crimes are intended to send a message, an inherently violent message of intolerance to vulnerable communities, and at the Department of the Attorney General, and in our Hate Crimes Unit, we know that stronger laws such as these can help us better protect Michigan residents from the scourge of hatred here at home.”

“Hate crimes and bias incidents continue to affect far too many of our community members — people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and religious minorities,” said Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), chair of the Senate Committee on Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety. “When a hate crime or bias incident occurs, it affects not just the victim but the entire community. I am grateful for Rep. Arbit’s leadership on updating our laws here in Michigan so that we can increase accountability for those who commit hate crimes. This would be a great step forward to help address the pain that many of our communities have felt in the wake of increasing hate in our state and country.”

House Bills 4474-4477 were referred to the House Criminal Justice Committee, where they await a hearing.