New California law eliminates ‘gay panic’ as a defense for attacks on LGBT people
On Tuesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that would outlaw so-called “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses in court for offenders who commit acts of violence against LGBT people.
Defense attorneys have successfully used the defense in the past, getting reductions in their clients’ sentences for hate crimes because the victims supposedly “came on” to their attackers or made unwelcome advances, causing the defendant to react violently.
Attorneys for teenager Brandon McInerney successfully used the ploy to get a reduced sentence for the killing of high school freshman Lawrence King, a gay youth who McInerney shot twice in the back of the head in a Los Angeles classroom.
Jezebel blogger Kat Callahan noted that a group of men who attacked and killed trans woman Gwen Araujo in Newark, California in 2002 were unsuccessful at getting their charges and sentences reduced by falling back on the “trans panic” defense.
The measure passed in a 50 to 10 vote in the state Assembly on Tuesday. Equality California’s executive director John O’Connor told the East Bay Express, “We’re glad that the Assembly Public Safety Committee agreed that this manufactured defense that plays upon homophobia and transphobia has no place in California’s justice system. The law should not treat victims of crime any differently because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that includes eliminating anti-LGBT bias as a ‘reasonable’ basis to mitigate the punishment for violent crimes against them.”