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Lawmakers and prosecutor want to add sexual identity to hate crimes definition

State Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren.
bieda.senatedems.com
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A teen was recently attacked in Muskegon County. Officials say it’s because he’s gay. Now prosecutors and lawmakers are calling on the legislature to expand the state’s hate crimes law.

A 17-year old boy was stripped of his clothes and assaulted. The evidence was clear to Muskegon County prosecutor D.J. Hilson – The teen was attacked because he was gay. But when he looked at the statute, he couldn’t charge the case as hate crime, which comes with increased penalties.

Hilson says it’s time for the Legislature to protect all citizens.

“We’re talking about real people, real victims, who need this protection,” he said.

Hilson says he supports a bill in the legislature to expand the state’s hate crime law to include sexual orientation and gender identity. 

State Sen. Steven Bieda, D-Warren, sponsored a bill. 

“We need to recognize that person who commits a hate crime often thinks or at least pretends that they are speaking for others," Bieda said. "And this legislation is about saying they do not speak for Michigan.

Bieda says there has been a rise in hate crimes against the LGBTQ community. 

Similar bills have been introduced before and failed. A spokesperson for the Senate majority leader says there are no plans to take up the bill.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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