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Michigan House committee approves changes to hate crime legislation

Michigan House committee approves changes to hate crime legislation
Michigan House committee approves changes to hate crime legislation 02:09

LANSING, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) - After a set of hate crime bills didn't make it across the finish line to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's desk in 2023, lawmakers made changes and are seeing new movement. 

"While similar in substance to the earlier bills passed by the House, these new bills make several changes and amendments to clarify intent, limitations and guardrails, namely the line between protected speech under the First Amendment and prohibited criminal action," said state Rep. Noah Arbit, one of the bill sponsors. 

Late in 2023, a different set of bills that aimed to expand existing hate crime legislation in our state came under fire from conservative media sites for being too broad. There were claims that accidentally misgendering someone could be punishable with prison time and a fine - claims Arbit said are categorically false. 

"The fact is, this isn't just an LGBTQ bill, and that's what bothered me about all the disinformation last year, too, besides the fact that it was all fake news," Arbit said. 

In his testimony on Tuesday, Arbit outlined the changes and clarifications to the legislation. Arbit said he removed the "controversial intimidation verbiage" and replaced it with stalking. 

"This way, the bill clearly states that such conduct is already criminalized in Michigan law while prescribing the conditions by which such conduct can be considered a hate crime," he said. 

Additionally, the lawmaker added clarifying language that reiterates, "Even hateful speech is protected under the First Amendment."

The House Committee on Criminal Justice approved the changes by a party-line vote, with all five Republican members passing on the vote. 

CBS News Detroit reached out to all five members who passed for a vote explanation and either didn't hear back or the interview was declined.

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