Equality Michigan: Hate violence against gay, transgender citizens is not slowing


DETROIT — Last week, David Battjes was attacked in downtown Grand Rapids after attending an Equality Michigan event. He was allegedly thrown against a wall, verbally assaulted, called a “faggot” and told “you don’t deserve to live” before being punched in the stomach.

He was targeted because he is a gay man. No suspects have been found.

On July 14, a 28-year-old gay man was assaulted in Detroit by four men. According to police, the incident appeared to be a setup.

The victim met a date in a public place and was approached by assailants who proceeded to rob him, beat him and steal his car while verbally assaulting him with anti-gay slurs.

To protect the victim’s safety, his name has not been released.

On July 4, 50-year-old Dennis Lafata was beaten in Warren after being hit by the attacker’s vehicle. The attackers allegedly put Lafata in a headlock, called him a “faggot” and asked “How would you like me to slit your throat?” before pulling out a knife and a bat.

Police have suspects in custody.

Two additional potential violent hate crimes were reported to Equality Michigan in July in which victims are fearful of coming forward.

All of these appalling incidents are part of a disturbing trend in Michigan: hate violence against gay and transgender citizens is not slowing.

Statistics just released by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs confirmed that anti-gay and anti-transgender hate violence increased nationally by 13 percent from 2009 to 2010.

FBI statistics show that anti-gay hate crimes are the third most frequent kind of hate crimes in America after race and religion. Advocates are expressing outrage over these incidents and are calling on Michigan lawmakers to take action.

“The reports of violence that we’ve received this year are horrifying,” said Denise Brogan-Kator, Equality Michigan’s Executive Director.

“Gay and transgender Michiganders should be able to walk the streets of their own communities without fear of violence. We’re seeing disturbing evidence that too few have the freedom to do so.
We need public leaders, law enforcement officials and legislators to stand up and say that violence against gay and transgender people is not OK. Instead, we’ve had some radical legislators in Lansing openly promote hate and intolerance of their gay and transgender constituents. It’s time for Michigan to get serious about passing and enforcing a hate crimes law that includes gay and transgender victims.”

Current Michigan law makes it a felony to assault someone, damage property or threaten to do so when the crime is motivated by bias based on race, national origin, color, religion or gender.

While overwhelming public support is growing for including gay and transgender people in hate crime laws, Michigan is still one of the states that doesn’t.

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