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gay panic defense

California Assembly Bill No. 2501 was approved by Governor Jerry Brown on September 27, 2014. The legislation amended Section 192 of the Penal Code, relating to manslaughter. AB 2501 banned a controversial manslaughter defense known as ‘gay panic defense.’ Before we get into what such a defense entails, it is prudent to discuss what constitutes manslaughter.

In California, the definition of voluntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a person “without malice upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.” Those found guilty of the crime face incarceration for 3, 6, or 11 years in state prison. While the definition appears to be fairly straightforward, what is an appropriate justification for manslaughter is not so cut and dry.

While more and more people in the United States are tolerant of equal rights for the LGBTQ community, there still exists individuals who take issue with the sexual preference and the preferred gender identity of others.

It is not unheard of for an individual, upon learning that they were flirting or intimate with a transgender or homosexual, to commit deadly acts of violence. With such knowledge in hand, they commit manslaughter in the “heat of passion.”

‘Gay Panic Defense In California and Beyond

The passing of AB 2501 means that:  

…for purposes of determining sudden quarrel or heat of passion, the provocation was not objectively reasonable if it resulted from the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the victim’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation, including under circumstances in which the victim made an unwanted nonforcible romantic or sexual advance towards the defendant, or if the defendant and victim dated or had a romantic or sexual relationship.

In fact, the American Bar Association is calling upon state legislatures to put an end to gay and trans panic defenses, according to NBC News. The organization insists that this type of argument is neither medically nor psychologically sound. Such strategies imply the victim is to blame for his or her death owing to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, only California and Illinois have passed legislation banning gay and trans panic defenses, according to the article. In the wake of these types of killings in the State of New York, lawmakers are pushing for similar legislation.

“Transgender and gender-nonconforming people already face astronomical rates of violence, [but] they are doubly victimized by courts that allow these unconscionable excuses for assault,” explains Andy Marra, of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. 

On the Federal level, Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., is sponsoring the Gay and Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act of 2018.

California Criminal Defense Attorney

If you, or a family member, face criminal charges in California, then we invite you to contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. Bringing decades of experience to the table, and having worked on several high-profile cases, Attorney Brower is equipped to advocate for your family.

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