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Michigan state senators renew proposal for anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ community

Democratic officials from across the state have reintroduced legislation intended to expand Michigan’s anti-discrimination laws to that include trans and queer individuals.
Briana Rice
Michigan Radio
Democratic officials from across the state have reintroduced legislation intended to expand Michigan’s anti-discrimination laws to cover trans and queer individuals.

A group of Michigan senators has reintroduced legislation intended to expand Michigan’s anti-discrimination laws so that they include protections for transgender and queer individuals.

Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act protects people who experience discrimination in housing, at work, and in public accommodations.

It does not specifically cover discrimination based on sexual orientation on gender identity. Neither does Michigan’s Ethnic Intimidation Law.

Detroit Senator Adam Hollier said he wants to change that.

He said the legislation he's proposing is necessary because transgender women of color have died in record numbers over the last several years.

"In every space she has to enter, people want to know what her pronouns are. They want to know what she is and what she isn’t, what she has and what she doesn’t have. And the reason that that’s so important and so impactful is because if she answers wrongly, her life is in danger," Hollier said during a Friday press conference.

At least 57 transgender people were killed last year in the U.S., according to the Human Rights Campaign, though officials say many transgender deaths are not recorded in that number because they're not reported as such.

Hollier was joined by Democratic state lawmakers, LGBTQ advocates and Detroit police officers during a press conference announcing the bill.

This legislation comes after a 25-year-old transgender woman identified as Naomi Skinner was killed in Highland Park, outside of Detroit, in February.

Police officers at the press conference noted the uptick in violence against transgender women in Metro Detroit.

Jeynce Poindexter, a longtime transgender advocate and a case manager at the Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park, spoke at the conference.

Poindexter said transgender people are not well served by the judicial system.

"We continue to have to navigate the judicial system that continues to kind of keep us at a certain point and in a certain box without fully really recognizing our humanity," Poindexter said. "Before I am a trans woman, before I am a Black person, I'm a human."

Dani Woods is the LGBTQ liasion with the Detroit Police Department. She trains Detroit officers on terminology, history, and case law involving LGBTQ communities, and she spoke during the conference.

"No one is asking for preferential treatment. No one is asking for that. The ask — and it’s a shame that we have to ask — is equality," Woods said.

Briana Rice is Michigan Public's criminal justice reporter. She's focused on what Detroiters need to feel safe and whether they're getting it.
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