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Violent crimes against LGBT community up 13% in 2010

Prison_Thumb_1815.jpg
Prison_Thumb_1815.jpg

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) announced Tuesday that its member organizations had tracked a 13 percent increase in violent anti-gay crimes nationwide in 2010, but the numbers in the state of Michigan appear to be mixed.

The report is available here on the NCAVP website.

At the state level, Equality Michigan says they had a decline in the number of violent crimes reported to them in the last year, but an increase in reported incidents of job and housing discrimination, as well as intimidation and harassment of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Nusrat Ventimiglia, Equality Michigan’s director of victim services, says the low reporting may be the effect of a series of changes Equality Michigan underwent last year. Among them was the merger between Michigan Equality and Triangle Foundation and a switch in the number to report crimes. For years the LGBT community had been aware of efforts by Triangle Foundation to track and report anti-LGBT crimes, but with the merger and name change, the institutional recognition and brand built for the organization was lost.

“I think that the decrease in numbers is better explained by that than a decrease in crime,” Ventimiglia said.

As evidence of that, Ventimiglia says the number of victims of anti-gay incidents his group is working with has doubled from last year.

The report for Michigan shows 55.8 percent of the reports the groups accepted in 2010 were about discrimination in housing and employment. In addition, 36 percent of the cases involved harassment and 29 percent involved intimidation.

While the number of reported anti-gay crimes in Michigan decreased in 2010, that doesn’t mean violence against the LGBT community did not occur. Ventimiglia pointed to an armed robbery in Ferndale where a man and two accomplices tied up a gay man, stole his ATM card and demanded the pass code. They then cleaned out his bank account. In another instance, Ventimigilia said a man who was thought to be gay was stabbed 132 times by an assailant who claimed he was threatened by the victim’s alleged sexual advances.

Nationally, the anti-violence groups noted that the greater brunt of the violence was directed at people of color and at transgender people.

“One theory,” Ventimigilia said, “is that greater visibility and media coverage has occurred, and therefore debate caused some individuals who are violent to act violently. That’s one theory. What this data shows is that it is still a problem and it hasn’t gone away. It needs to be addressed.”

Ventimiglia pointed to legislation in the state which would expand Michigan’s ethnic intimidation act to include additional groups, including the LGBT community. The new law would be called the Anti-Bias Crime Act (ABC). Advocates have been attempting since the late 80s to amend the state’s civil rights law, the Elliot-Larsen Act, to include sexual orientation and gender identity and/or expression. Right now in Michigan, unless one lives in an area which has a local ordinance, a person can be fired for their sexual orientation and they have no legal recourse to address the discrimination.

Openly gay Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger tells Michigan Messenger that the new report was “terrible.”

“There are so many out people now and there is still so much hate,” Karger said. “I think that our visibility sometimes just pushed the wrong buttons.”

He said it was important for federal authorities to use the Shepard-Byrd Act — called the Hate Crimes law — to pursue and prosecute crimes against the LGBT community. He also says that as a result of his trips all over the county, he has met many transgender people, who have told him of their struggles. He noted that many transgender people fear being fired from a job because they are unlikely to find a new one.

“Reports like this one remind us of the importance of being vigilant in our pursuit of respect for difference,” said Daniel H. Krichbaum, executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights in an email to Michigan Messenger.

Officials from Speaker of the House Jase Bolger’s (R-Marshall) office and Gov. Rick Snyder’s office did not respond to emails seeking comment about the new report and calls for civil rights legislation.

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