CALIFORNIA: Bill To Ban “Gay Panic” Defense Awaits Signature Of Governor

California should soon become the first state to ban the so-called “gay panic” defense in violent crimes against LGBT citizens.

A bill awaiting Brown’s approval would prohibit the use of the defense — the argument that a violent act was triggered by the revelation of a victim’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation — in an attempt to downgrade a murder charge to manslaughter. It passed in the state Assembly last week by a 58 to 15 vote, and before that in the Senate with a vote of 25 to 9. That the nation’s most populous state could soon ban the defense is a win for the National LGBT Bar Association, an association of legal professionals, students and affiliated groups that has been working to minimize the use of the defense for a decade, said Executive Director D’Arcy Kemnitz. “But it’s going to be meaningful when we pass it in Wyoming where Matthew Shepard was murdered,” too, she said, noting that each state matters. The LGBT Bar Association and Equality California, an advocacy organization, both say the law would be the nation’s first.

(Tipped by JMG reader Todd)