Michigan lawmakers advance bills for Diwali, Vaisakhi, Eid public holidays

Michigan State Rep. Ranjeev Puri. PHOTO: @housedems.com @ranjeev-puri

Over the last week of April 2023, Ranjeev Puri, an Indian American member of the Michigan House of Representatives has been has been part of a group of lawmakers introducing legislation impacting the South Asian community. State Rep. Puri was elected last November and assumed office for a two-year term January 1 this year.

On April 21, Puri, who represents District 24, introduced the State Holidays bill package along with Majority Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) and State Rep. Sharon MacDonell (D-Troy), introduced legislation to establish the holidays of Diwali, Vaisakhi, Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and Lunar New Year as official state-recognized holidays in Michigan.

House Bill 4447, calls for recognizing the Muslim holidays and House Bill 4446, establishes Diwali as a state holiday. And 4449 does the same for Vaisakhi. In addition, House Bill 4448 establishes the Lunar New Year observed by many other communities as a holiday as well.

All the festivals are aimed at recognizing the diversity of ethnic and religious groups in the Midwestern state.

“These bills embrace the diverse fabric of our state by recognizing various religious and cultural holidays,” Aiyash is quoted saying in a press release. “Making these holidays official state holidays will let Michigan’s many communities know that they have a place in our great state and deserve to celebrate their joyous occasions like everyone else” Aiyash added.

The House Bills 4446 and 4449 were both led by Rep. Puri,  establishing Diwali and Vaisakhi has the same goal. Diwali celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance, usually lasts five days and people all around the world enjoy these special days. House Bill 4449 celebrates the spring harvest and is observed by Hindus and   Puri introduced both bills.

“Celebrating our cultural diversity is a cornerstone of a vibrant and inclusive society. By recognizing these holidays, we are not only showing our respect and appreciation for the traditions and beliefs of our fellow Michiganders, but we are also sending a powerful message of inclusion and unity,” Puri said. “Together, we can create a Michigan that is truly welcoming and accepting of all people, regardless of their background or beliefs. Let’s celebrate these holidays with joy and gratitude, and let’s show the world what it truly means to be a Michigander.”

MacDonell introduced House Bill 4448, which establishes Lunar New Year as a state holiday and is one of the most important celebrations of the year among East and Southeast Asian cultures, including Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean communities, among others.

On April 26, Puri joined State Representative Noah Arbit (D-West Bloomfield), alongside State Representative Kristian Grant (D-Grand Rapids) to introduce the long-awaited landmark legislation to strengthen Michigan’s outdated and inadequate hate crime laws, the press release said.

“For more than a decade, Michigan has experienced a severe rise in hate crimes, with Black, LGBTQ+, Jewish, Asian, and Muslim communities among the most targeted,” and according to the Michigan State Police, the number of reported hate crimes and bias incidents in Michigan rose every year between 2015 and 2020, legislators said.

The Michigan Hate Crime Act (HB 4474–Arbit, HB 4475–Grant) introduced by Puri and others would overhaul Michigan’s Ethnic Intimidation Statute, which was passed in 1988 after the murder of Vincent Chin. The Michigan Hate Crime Act would expand the basis on which hate crimes can be targeted to include: sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, physical or mental disability, ethnicity, and age; update sentencing guidelines, and begin to develop a restorative justice approach to hate crimes.

In addition, the Institutional Desecration Act (HB 4476–Arbit, HB 4477–Puri) would prohibit the targeted defacement, destruction, and vandalism of institutions and communal property, including houses of worship, cultural or community centers, and businesses as a hate crime. The legislation would provide a more appropriate tool for Michiganders to pursue justice and accountability for hate crimes targeting faith-based institutions and other types of communal property.

“I am deeply concerned with the rise in hate crimes across our nation in recent years,” Rep. Puri said. “Every single person should be able to live their life as their true authentic self without fear. Updating our hate crime law to include protections for additional personal characteristics, as well as institutional desecration, helps ensure that our laws reflect the core tenet that Michigan is a place where every person can and should feel safe,” Puri added.

The vandalism bill, he noted, “…. sends a strong message that we will not tolerate any form of hate or discrimination in our communities, and that those who commit hate crimes will be held responsible. By standing up against hate and bigotry, we can create a safer and more inclusive place to call home for every Michigander.”

“Hate crimes and bias incidents continue to affect far too many of our community members — people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and religious minorities,” said Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), chair of the Senate Committee on Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety. “When a hate crime or bias incident occurs, it affects not just the victim but the entire community.”



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