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Calif. Bills Seek to Ban 'Gay Panic' Defense, Address Other Issues

By Trudy Ring

California assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla and Equality California, a statewide LGBT rights group, plan to introduce legislation that would prohibit the use of “gay panic” or “trans panic” defenses in criminal trials, reports the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.

It “would modify the existing definition of ‘voluntary manslaughter’ to prohibit defendants from contending that they were provoked to murder by discovering the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity,” the paper notes.

There have been some well-known cases in which defendants charged with murder have claimed they were spurred to the crime by these factors. In California these include the trials of the killers of Lawrence King and Gwen Araujo, and in Texas a suspect in the killing of a college student is claiming a “gay panic” defense.

“It is an outrage to allow the use of panic defenses and in doing so blame the victims of horrific acts of violence,” Equality California executive director John O’Connor told the paper.

The bill, which will be heard by a committee in the spring, is one of seven sponsored by Equality California this session, SDGLN reports. The others would let parents to choose to self-designate as “father,” “mother,” or “parent” on birth certificates; replace references to “husband” and “wife” with gender-neutral language such as “spouse” in all state laws; require schools to document responses to bullying and refer students to appropriate services; assure that nonprofit youth organizations receive special tax exemptions only if they comply with state nondiscrimination laws; educate health care providers about LGBT-specific health issues; and mandate that death certificates for transgender Californians reflect their identity accurately.


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