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New California law eliminates ‘gay panic’ as a defense for attacks on LGBT people

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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.

The East Bay Express reported that Assembly Bill No. 2501 outlaws the use by defendants of a victim’s sexual orientation or gender status as a defense for attacking or killing someone.

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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.”

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House GOP loses yet another incumbent as California’s Paul Cook announces retirement

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Another day, another retirement for House Republicans.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Rep. Paul Cook R-CA) is heading for the exits and retiring at the end of his term in 2020.

Instead of serving in Congress for another term, Cook will run for a seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, the congressman's chief of staff tells the Los Angeles Times.

Even though Democrats made major gains in California during the 2018 midterm elections, Cook's district will be difficult for the party to pick up. Cook last year won reelection with 60 percent of the vote and his opponent wasn't even a Democrat, but fellow Republican Tim Donnelly.

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Michigan Republicans thank ‘Uncle Ted’ Nugent for testifying after he says their state ‘doesn’t qualify as America’

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Republican lawmakers in Michigan invited conservative rocker Ted Nugent to testify even though he has said the state "doesn't qualify as America."

In testimony on the Michigan state House floor on Tuesday, Nugent spoke in support of a bill that would reverse a ban on deer and elk baiting. The ban was put in place in 2018 due to suspicions that chronic wasting disease (CWD) was being spread through piles of bait.

For his part, Nugent argued that the ban was ineffective because deer are "swapping spit."

"If they think they can stop deer from swapping spit, they're idiots," Nugent testified, according to The Detroit News.

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NY judge kicked off the bench after suggesting nooses are needed to ‘make America great again’

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A judge in upstate New York has been forced off the bench after he posted an image of a noose on his personal Facebook account -- and suggested it was needed to help "make America great again."

The Washington Post reports that officials on Tuesday revealed that Kyle R. Canning, a part-time judge, was relieved of his duties after the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded that his Facebook post showed an unacceptable level of political and racial bias.

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