Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel dances with Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) at Ferndale Pride on June 3, 2023 (Photo: Anna Liz Nichols)
This week, several bills aimed at solidifying the rights of LGBTQ+ Michiganders are going to be heard in legislative committees, LGBTQ+ members of Michigan government announced at the opening of Ferndale Pride on Saturday.
Leaders said bills to expand hate crime protections to include gender identity and sexual orientation and legislation to ban conversion therapy on minors in the state will get hearings this week to kick off June, which is Pride Month.
There’s a lot to celebrate this Pride Month, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. Nessel is the first openly gay top elected official in Michigan.
Michigan made a decision to be an equality state when members of the LGBTQ community and their allies showed up in the 2022 November election and earned Michigan a Democrat-majority legislature for the first time in 40 years, Nessel said.
“Now because of the great work all of you did, by actually getting out to the polls and voting, we can actually have legislation which advocates on behalf of the LGBTQ community and includes us,” Nessel said.
Nessel pointed at legislation being spearheaded by Rep. Noah Arbit (D- West Bloomfield) that would expand Michigan’s hate crimes definition to include perpetration against individuals on the basis of their gender expression or sexual orientation. It would also raise the penalties on hate crimes, depending on the incident, to a five-year maximum prison sentence or a $10,000 fine, or both. Currently the law calls for a maximum of a two-year prison sentence or a $5,000 fine, or both.
The hate crimes package is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday in front of the House Criminal Justice Committee.
On the first day of this year’s legislative session, Southfield Democrats Sen. Jeremy Moss and Rep. Jason Hoskins introduced legislation to expand Michigan’s current civil rights laws nearly 50 years after their creation to include protection specifically for LGBTQ+ Michiganders.
Gov Gretchen Whitmer signed the expansion into law in March.
The work of this new legislature can’t stop there, said Moss, the state’s first openly gay senator.
“We showed up last year and we elected the very first pro-equality legislature in Michigan’s history, and we showed the nation what can happen when a state leans into diversity, leans into inclusivity, leans into equality and leans into pride,” Moss said.
For too long, LGBTQ+ Michiganders have faced inequality, Hoskins said. But with the progression of bills to support the community, Michigan is becoming a better and safer place to live for the LGBTQ+ community, the Southfield lawmaker said.
Under legislation Hoskins introduced, mental health professionals who perform conversion therapy on minors in an attempt to intervene with their gender expression and sexual orientation will be at risk of losing their licenses to practice.
Ahead of the introduction of the bills against conversion therapy Hoskins called the practice of conversion therapy “torture for kids.”
“One of the issues with conversion therapy is that it is something that was put in place because there’s an idea that LGBTQ people need to fit in, that there’s something wrong with them, and that unfortunately helps discrimination flourish when you think you have to be fixed,” Hoskins said in May.
But as the first openly gay person of color elected to the Michigan Legislature, Hoskins said discrimination against people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community is still a barrier for many.
“I almost didn’t even run for office because that’s what discrimination does sometimes, it makes you feel like you are not worthy to live your dreams and then in the worst cases sometimes, it makes you feel like you’re not even worthy to live,” Hoskins said.
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