Equality California Celebrates 100 Pieces of LGBT Rights Legislation with Passage of the “Panic Defense” Bill
Equality California, the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization in California, celebrated its 100th piece of passed legislation today when the California Assembly — by a preliminary bipartisan vote of 58-14 — approved AB 2501, which would prohibit the use of the “panic defense” to support a finding of sudden quarrel or heat of passion, which is necessary to reduce a charge of murder to manslaughter. This bill, the first of its kind in the nation, now moves on to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.
For more than a decade, EQCA has partnered with legislators to successfully sponsor more legislation improving the lives of LGBT people than any other statewide LGBT organization, strategically moving California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT people to a state with some of the most comprehensive human rights protections in the nation.
“This milestone is not significant for quantity alone but for the real, life-changing impact of these laws,” said Rick Zbur, executive director-elect of EQCA. “Because of the work of Equality California in the legislature, California students will learn about the role and contributions of LGBT people in history; people around the world know about the story and example of Harvey Milk; and LGBT youth won’t be subjected to the psychological abuse that is conversion therapy.”
“LGBT seniors who have lost a partner will be secure in their homes and not vulnerable to unfair tax increases; California employers must provide health insurance for same-sex spouses and domestic partners; and transgender people need not fear that they won’t be able to secure a job or a place to live simply because of their gender identity,” he added.
For its milestone 100th piece of legislation, EQCA partnered with Assemblymember Susan Bonilla to end the “panic defense,” a disturbing legal tactic that has been used in various cases in California and nationwide, whereby criminal defendants claim that they have been the object of romantic advances by a person of the same sex or a transgender person that they found so offensive and frightening as to induce a violent reaction against the victim.
“This defense legitimizes prejudice and hate, and it should play absolutely no part in California’s justice system,” said Zbur. “This bill helps eliminate anti-LGBT bias as a ‘reasonable’ basis to ease the punishment for violent crimes against LGBT people.”
“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,” said Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla. “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.”
There is a complete lack of scientific research to support the “panic defense,” and the American Bar Association last year adopted a resolution urging “federal, tribal, state, local and territorial governments to take legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of the ‘gay panic’ and ‘trans panic’ defenses.”
“This panic defense bill and the other 99 pieces of legislation before it have brought us a long way in improving the lives of LGBT people in California,” said Zbur. “As we look ahead, Equality California is evolving to meet the needs of California’s LGBT community. We will utilize Equality California’s enormous mobilization and communications capacity to educate the public and to fight discrimination wherever it exists. And we will use our public policy and legislative expertise to advocate for programs at all levels of government that address the needs of the LGBT community and combat historic and existing discrimination. This is the work ahead of us.”
Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy organization in California. For more than a decade, Equality California has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to a state with some of the most comprehensive human rights protections in the nation. Equality California has partnered with legislators to successfully sponsor 100 pieces of pro-equality legislation. EQCA continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, electoral work, public education and community empowerment.www.eqca.org