Bill to Curb “Panic Defense” Passes Assembly
SACRAMENTO – May 30 – The California Assembly passed AB 2501, a bill authored by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla that is designed to curb the so-called “panic defense” by making it clear that a defendant’s discovery of a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not sufficient provocation to reduce a charge of murder to manslaughter. The bill, which is co-sponsored by Equality California and Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, passed by a bipartisan vote of 50-18.
“The bipartisan support for AB 2501 in the Assembly is a strong indicator that California is done with these bogus ‘panic’ defenses,” said John O’Connor, Equality California executive director. ”A victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity should never be used to mitigate the punishment for a crime, and we thank Assemblymember Bonilla and Attorney General Harris for their leadership on this issue.”
“Currently, a panic defense allows a criminal defendant to claim that violence against the LGBT community is understandable or acceptable, when it is absolutely inexcusable” said Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla. “AB 2501 strikes the correct balance of allowing a person to present evidence in his or her defense, while ensuring that biases do not mitigate violent crimes against members of the LGBT community.”
Including AB 2501, four EQCA bills have now passed out of their houses of origin:
AB 1951, authored by Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez, would modernize California birth certificates by allowing parents to choose to self-designate as “father,” “mother” or “parent,” eliminating inaccurate designations and confusion for same-sex parents. AB 1951 passed with a bipartisan majority of 53-14.
SB 1306, authored by Senator Mark Leno and co-sponsored with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, brings California statutory law into line with last June’s Supreme Court decision restoring the freedom to marry in California. References to “husband” and “wife” would be replaced with gender-neutral language such as “spouse” to recognize all married couples throughout California code. SB 1306 passed with a bipartisan majority of 25-10.
AB 1577, the Respect After Death Act, authored by Speaker Toni Atkins and co-sponsored with Transgender Law Center, would make sure death certificates for transgender Californians accurately reflect their authentic, lived identity. AB 1577 passed with a bipartisan majority of 62-5.
Two additional EQCA-sponsored bills will be voted on before the end of August. Those bills are SB 323, authored by Senator Ricardo Lara, which clarifies that nonprofit youth organizations will only be rewarded with special tax exemptions if they comply with California’s existing nondiscrimination laws, and AB 496, authored by Assemblymember Rich Gordon, which clarifies that existing cultural competency training for health care providers should include discussion of LGBT issues.
###Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians.