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California: State Passes Bill Banning 'Gay Panic' and 'Trans Panic' Defenses in Criminal Cases

First Posted: Aug 31, 2014 11:35 AM EDT

The California Legislature recently passed a bill that would prevent defendants in criminal cases from using the "gay panic" or "trans panic" defense to lessen their punishment or dodge punishment altogether.

The bill passed the California Assembly on Wednesday in a 50-to-10 vote, according to The Associated Press. Introduced by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, a Democrat from Concord, the bill known as AB2501 would forbid defendants from using a victim's gender or sexual orientation in a panic defense.

The National LGBT Bar Association explains gay and trans panic defenses "ask a jury to find that a victim's sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant's excessively violent reaction. The perpetrator claims that the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity not only explain -- but excuse -- their loss of self-control and subsequent assault of an LGBT individual. By fully or partially acquitting the perpetrators of crimes against LGBT victims, these defenses imply that LGBT lives are worth less than others."

The American Bar Association, the organization that accredits all American attorneys, passed a resolution last year asking state legislatures to ban these so-called panic defenses.

Bonilla lamented that defendants could use this type of tactic in court, according to The Advocate.

"There is absolutely no justification for the use of 'panic defenses.' Clearly this tactic has been utilized by defendants, unjustly targeting members of the LGBT community, based on damaging stereotypes," Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla said in a statement Wednesday. "With AB 2501, we are moving forward to ensure equality in our courts and making it very clear that discrimination against the LGBT community is intolerable and unacceptable."

The Advocate explains that this is the 100th bill sponsored by Equality California. 

"This defense legitimizes prejudice and hate, and it should play absolutely no part in California's justice system," said Rick Zbur, executive director-elect of Equality California, according to The Advocate. "This bill helps eliminate anti-LGBT bias as a 'reasonable' basis to ease the punishment for violent crimes against LGBT people."

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