Michigan has a statute that enhances punishment for assaults that are motivated by race, religion, national origin, or gender. Although the ACLU generally opposes statutes that enhance punishments, there are many civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex or gender and the ACLU believes that they should be interpreted as protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination. In 2018 a woman named Kimora Steuball was shot and seriously injured by a man who was harassing her for being transgender. The assailant was prosecuted under Michigan’s hate crimes law, but the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the law does not cover crimes motivated by animus against transgender people. Such a decision would likely affect whether people who are fired from their jobs or denied services in stores and restaurants based on their gender identity will be protected by any of Michigan’s civil rights laws. In 2020 the ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the Michigan Supreme Court to take the case and rule that assaulting someone because they are transgender is an assault motivated by gender in violation of state law. The Supreme Court ordered the Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision, and in August 2021 the Court of Appeals reversed itself, agreeing with our position and holding that violence motivated by a person’s gender identity is an assault based on that person’s gender and therefore violates Michigan’s hate crimes statute. (People v. Rogers; National ACLU Attorney John Knight and Liman Fellow Joshua Blecher-Cohen; ACLU of Michigan Attorneys Jay Kaplan and Dan Korobkin.)
The Michigan Legislature is in session.