Michigan House committee approved bills that would outlaw violence, intimidation, and property destruction based on factors like sexual orientation, ethnicity, or age as hate crimes. The current statute only refers to “ethnic intimidation”. The bills would expand the list of protected classes to include age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability status, age and association with any of the previously mentioned groups. Critics brought up free speech concerns with the legislation, but the sponsor maintains the legislation would hold up in court. The package would make hate crimes a felony, carrying a two-year maximum sentence and or a $5,000 fine.
As mentioned in a news article on a recent article on WKAR News, hate crime bills have advanced out of a Michigan House committee. The bills aim to outlaw violence, intimidation, and property destruction based on factors such as sexual orientation, ethnicity, or age. Currently, the state’s statute only refers to “ethnic intimidation,” which lawmakers believe is outdated for the current moment.
Representative Noah Arbit, a Democrat from West Bloomfield, argues that Michigan needs to take action to address the steep rise in hate crimes. He states, “We have seen a very steep rise in hate crimes in the state of Michigan and across the country, and we have done nothing. No corresponding legislative action to address it, and it’s time Michigan is moving from a national laggard to a national leader on this issue.”
The current law requires individuals to have the intent to harm someone based on race, color, religion, gender, or national origin to be charged with a hate crime. The proposed package would expand the definition of hate crimes to include other motivating factors as well. This means that someone could be charged with a hate crime regardless of whether there is another motivating factor involved.
Furthermore, the package aims to expand the list of protected classes to include age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability status, age, and association with any of the previously mentioned groups. This expansion is crucial in providing comprehensive protection for marginalized communities.
During a committee hearing on the bills, critics raised concerns about potential free speech issues. William Wagner, a law professor emeritus at Western Michigan University, suggested that lawmakers should make the language in the bills more specific to avoid potential lawsuits. He warned that the state could face millions of dollars in attorney fees if the legislation is challenged.
However, Representative Arbit is confident that the legislation would hold up in court. He collaborated with the Attorney General’s office to ensure its legality. Arbit stated, “The Supreme Court has upheld state hate crime laws, time and time again. These bills do not infringe on anyone’s constitutional right.”
If passed, the hate crime bills would generally classify hate crimes as felonies, carrying a maximum sentence of two years and/or a $5,000 fine. The penalties would increase if the crime resulted in bodily injury, was a repeat offense, or was committed with others.
In addition to addressing hate crimes, the package also includes provisions for the destruction, damaging, or defacing of institutions such as places of worship, schools, and cemeteries based on the factors covered in the hate crime bill. The punishment for institutional destruction would vary depending on the severity of the offense.
In light of this information, the hate crime bills have taken an important step forward in the legislative process. If enacted, they would provide stronger protections for marginalized communities and send a clear message that hate and discrimination will not be tolerated in Michigan.