A group of Michigan senators have reintroduced legislation to expand Michigan’s anti-discrimination laws to include protections for transgender and gay people.
Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act protects people who experience discrimination in housing, work, and public places.
It does not specifically cover discrimination based on sexual orientation on gender identity. Neither did Michigan’s ethnic intimidation law.
Detroit Sen. Adam Hollier said he wanted to change that.
He said the legislation he is proposing is needed because transgender women of color have died in record numbers in recent 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 it’s so important and so impactful is because if she gets it wrong, her life is in danger,” Hollier said at a press conference on Friday.
At least 57 transgender people were killed last year in the United States, according to the Human Rights Campaign, although officials say many transgender deaths fall outside this number because they are not reported as such.
Hollier was joined by Democratic state lawmakers, LGBTQ advocates and Detroit police officers at a press conference announcing the bill.
The legislation comes after a 25-year-old transgender woman identified as Naomi Skinner was killed in Highland Park outside Detroit in February.
At the press conference, officers noted the upsurge in violence against transgender women in the Detroit metro area.
Jeynce Poindexter, a longtime transgender lawyer and case manager at the Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park, spoke at the conference.
Poindexter said transgender people are not well served by the justice system.
“We continue to have to navigate the justice system that continues to keep us at a certain point and in a certain box without really fully acknowledging our humanity,” Poindexter said. “Before being a trans woman, before being a black person, I am a human.”
Dani Woods is the LGBTQ Liaison with the Detroit Police Department. She trains Detroit agents on terminology, history, and case law involving LGBTQ communities, and she spoke at the conference.
“Nobody’s asking for preferential treatment. Nobody’s asking for that. The asking — and it’s too bad we have to ask — is equality,” Woods said.