Michigan’s ethnic intimidation law protects transgender people, court rules

Aug 6, 2021 at 10:46 am
click to enlarge The transgender pride flag. - Shutterstock
The transgender pride flag.

A Michigan law that makes it a crime to intimidate people based on their gender protects transgender residents, the state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

The ruling involves a case in which a transgender woman was shot at a gas station in July 2018. The gunman, Deonton Rogers, was charged with ethnic intimidation after police said he called the woman “gay,” repeatedly taunted her with derogatory remarks, and asked to see her penis before pulling out a gun and threatening to kill her.

Afraid she was going to be shot, the woman tried to grab the gun, which fired and struck her in the shoulder.

At issue in the case is whether the ethnic intimidation law, which protects people based on gender, covers transgender residents.

Judges Michael Gadola and James Robert Redford ruled it does, saying Rogers “engaged in harassment and intimidation of the complainant based on gender. He showed her a loaded gun and threatened to kill her, causing her to fear for her life.”

The decision overturns a January 2010 ruling by a Wayne County Circuit Court judge who dismissed the ethnic intimidation charge, arguing it does not cover people who are transgender.

The charge has been reinstated.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who filed the ethnic intimidation charge against Rogers, applauded the decision.

“I could not be more pleased that the Court of Appeals has reinstated these charges and recognized that transgender citizens are now officially included under the Ethnic Intimidation Act,” Worthy said in a statement. “This is a huge win for the protection of the Transgender community.”

Alanna Maguire, president of Fair Michigan, an anti-discrimination group, said the court’s ruling is a triumph for transgender rights.

“This decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals is an historic victory for the transgender community,” Maguire said. “By affirming that the definition of gender in our state's ethnic intimidation law includes transgender people, the Court has granted greater justice for crime victims. Fair Michigan was honored to work with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy in charging ethnic intimidation in this case, and we are thrilled by the Court's ruling. Charging ethnic intimidation is a powerful tool that can be used to protect our most vulnerable communities."

Attorney General Dana Nessel also celebrated the ruling, saying “the transgender community is at heightened risk for intimidation and bias-based crimes.”

"Incidents like these are unfortunately far too common in the transgender community," Nessel said. "Since taking office, I have fought for all Michiganders — especially those who are often the target of hate crimes. This ruling supports that priority and reinforces our most basic and fundamental protections under the law."

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