This weekend, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that prohibits “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses from being used to escape murder charges.
All over the country, murder charges can sometimes be downgraded to manslaughter when a person claims they acted out of panic after finding out a person was gay or trans. (It’s especially common around the murders of trans women.) It perpetuates the idea that LGBT people are “lying” about who they are if they aren’t out to everyone, it attempts to justify murder, and it says that LGBT lives aren’t as important as others.
The American Bar Association has urged governments to end panic defenses, but with this legislation, California becomes the first state ever to outlaw them.
Current state law allows murder charges to be reduced to manslaughter if the killings happened in a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion.
But under the bill, approved by the Assembly last month, defendants would be barred from using their victims’ sexual orientation or gender identityto support such a defense.
Read that again: California is the first state ever to say that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is no excuse for murdering them. The first state ever. Wow, have we got a ton of work to do.
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