Push for hate crime bill after attack on gay teen

In a Dec. 12, 2012 file photo, the state capitol building is seen in Lansing, Mich.

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — There are renewed calls in the Michigan Legislature to add gender identification and sexual orientation to the list of hate crime protections.

It comes after a 17-year-old man was beat and stripped in Muskegon Heights on Nov. 4. Authorities said the victim was targeted because of his sexual orientation.

Wednesday, Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson and state Sen. Steve Bieda announced they are renewing calls for action on Senate Bill 121 — which is awaiting a committee hearing.

The bill, which was introduced in February, would add gender identification and sexual orientation to the list of protections under the Ethnic Intimidation Act.

Under its current form, the Ethnic Intimidation Act allows charges to sought against people who intimidate or harass another person based on their race, color, religion, gender or nationality. It doesn’t include sexual orientation and gender identity protections.

In the Muskegon Heights case, Hilson says his office considered a felony charge of ethnic intimidation against the suspect, 18-year-old Trevon Godbolt, but couldn’t because of current hate crime laws.

“I don’t get to make the laws, I just get to enforce the laws that are made,” Hilson previously told 24 Hour News 8. “And we’re hoping that this will highlight the need to make change in this particular law.”

Bieda, the Democratic senator from Warren, has previously introduced similar bills but none of them have been able to pass the Republican-controlled legislature, according to a Michigan Senate Democrats news release.