May 15, 2009
Anti-gay hate group fights against protection against violence for gays
LANSING – It’s amazing the hoops right-wingers will jump through to deny rights to the gay community.
We saw a perfect example Wednesday at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee where Republicans voted against House Bills 4835 and 4836 known as the hate crime bills. The bills would increase the penalties for crimes committed because of person's bias toward another person or group based on race, disability, gender, religion, sexual orientation or other reason. The rub for right-wingers is that it dares to protect gays, a group that has suffered the most violence in recent years.
The measure was approved during the last Legislative session in the House, but, like most bills, died when the Senate failed to take them up.
As usual the hearing brought out the anti-gay hate group the American Family Association (AFA) led by homophobe Gary Glenn. He said the bill should not include protections for homosexuals or transvestites. He presented his usual biased and debunked testimony, like the bills will censor people and religious expression. He continues to use the debunked example of a grandmother in Philadelphia arrested for a hate crime.
Brian Mackey, Washtenaw County prosecutor and spokesperson for the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, testified in favor of the bill. He prosecuted one of the first hate crimes when the law went into effect in the early 1990’s. He said the bill in no way infringes on the 1st Amendment’s freedom of speech or religion.
“This takes no one’s rights away from anyone, and it hurts no one,” he said.
Glenn claimed the bills are only intended to make the gay lifestyle acceptable and mainstream. Mackey denied that.
“I don’t base my decision on who I prosecute on what the Triangle Foundation says,” he said. “I’m bound by the law, and that’s how it should be.”
Unlike the current law, the bills would ensure the conviction would be based on the perpetrator's intent, not on the actual status of the victim. Mackey said it’s the offender who makes the choice, not the victim.
“I can be attacked by someone who mistakes my sexual orientation,” he said. “Mr. Glenn can be attacked by someone who mistakes his sexual identity.”
Mackey brought up Livingston County’s racist past it cannot shake with the story of former resident and Klan member Robert Miles, who lived in rural Cohoctah Township north of Howell, in the 1970s and ‘80s. Mackey prosecuted an associate of Miles’ who helped him tar and feather a pro-integration high school principal. On the surface, it might seem like a harmless prank until you realize why it happened; to intimidate more than just the principal.
Mackey used another example of simple graffiti that is just destruction of property, but if the person wrote something like “Hitler didn’t finish the job,” then the person has assaulted the entire community.
“You should be convicted for what you really did,” he said.
What’s really telling is the numerous groups in support of the bills, and they include the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, The Michigan Department of State Police, the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, The Triangle Foundation, the Mt. Pleasant Area Diversity Group, The Women’s Commission, The Advisory Council on Asian Pacific Affairs, The Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Board, The Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, the Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services, The Anti-Defamation League and the Grand Rapids Community Relations Committee.
Those in opposition, just two: the American Family Association and the so-called The American Decency Association.
The bills were passed out of committee, and should be taken up in the House very soon.