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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Recent LGBT tolerance in Michigan mirror national trends


In August 2012, a 26-year-old Detroiter named Everett Dwayne Avery made gay slurs and attacked Justin Alesna in line at a gas station. 

Avery was sentenced to 18 months in prison after he plead guilty to violating the Federal Hate Crimes Protection Act.

Equality Michigan is a group that is part of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) that works to end violence against and within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and HIV-affected communities.

The group recently released a report on anti-LGBTQ and HIV-affected hate violence.

"The biggest trend we see reflects the national trend in terms of anti-LGBTQ violence," said Yvonne Siferd, the director of Victim Services at Equality Michigan.

"Transgender people, and women of color specifically, are the most at risk and proportionally affected by hate violence."

Siferd cites the small size of this population as one of the reasons that they are targeted more than other groups.

"People are just afraid of what they don't know."

In Michigan, it's legal to fire employees for being gay or being perceived as gay.  

"A lot of times trans women of color are forced to do survival work on the streets which automatically puts them at risk for violence."

Victims of hate can experience violence in a variety of ways, from slurs under their breath to something brutal like the Alesna case. 

"Most of what we see at Equality Michigan has to do with discrimination in the workplace and landlord discrimination, because it's perfectly legal for a landlord to refuse housing to someone who is LGBT."

Siferd said it's difficult to know how closely Michigan compares with other states, because only 18 states are currently reporting data to the NCAVP, and they're volunteer organizations.

"What I can say is that trends are increasing across the country and in Michigan."

Unfortunately, the more strides that groups like Equality Michigan make for LGBT equality, the more opposition fights back. 

Our progress fuels the fear and fire of opposition, Siferd said. 

-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom

To hear the full audio, click the link above.

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