California Gov. Signs Bill Outlawing ‘Gay Panic’ Defense That 24 Republicans Voted Against


Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill into law that bans the use of the so-called "gay panic" or "trans panic" defense. 

In the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, attorneys for the killers tried to invoke the "gay panic" defense. The Wyoming judge rightly did not allow it. But just a few years earlier, in a highly-publicized case, attorneys for Jonathan Schmitz used the "gay panic" defense after he murdered his friend Scott Amedure during "The Jenny Jones Show." 

"Such defenses have been used before, sometimes successfully," Salon notes. "In the murder of gay high school student Lawrence King, defendant Brandon McInerny — who was found guilty of shooting his classmate in the back of the head twice. But he wasn't found guilty of murder â€” just of voluntary manslaughter."

This week, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation outlawing the defense so ugly it has no right being used. Now, no one will be able to claim that a person's sexual orientation, perceived or otherwise, or gender expression can be used as a defense in their murder or manslaughter.

AB-2501, the first of its kind in the nation, bans the use of what is commonly referred to as the "gay panic," or "trans panic" defense.

In August, the bill passed the Senate 25-9, and the Assembly 58-15. No Democrat voted against it, yet a total of 24 lawmakers in the California Senate and Assembly saw fit to say "gay panic" and "trans panic" are acceptable defenses in murder or manslaughter cases.

"Now they will face the full charges for their crime, just as if they had killed a heterosexual person," Jim Reeves at the Visalia Times-Delta reports. "No more 'momentary insanity' claims because someone of the same gender (or transgender) made a pass (or you thought they made a pass) at you."

The bill in part reads:

This bill would state that for purposes of determining sudden quarrel or heat of passion, the provocation was not objectively reasonable if it resulted from the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the victim's actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation, including under circumstances in which the victim made an unwanted nonforcible romantic or sexual advance towards the defendant, or if the defendant and victim dated or had a romantic or sexual relationship. By changing the definition of a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

You can see how lawmakers voted at the California Legislature's website, and contact Democratic lawmakers or Republican lawmakers to let them know your thoughts.


Image via Flickr

Related At The New Civil Rights Movement:

Taking Real Steps To Protect Transgender Kids: A Bridge Too Far For The LGB Community?

Governor Brown Signs FAIR Act, Teaching Gay History Now California Law


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