California outlaws 'gay panic' homicide defense

[JURIST] California Governor Jerry Brown [official website] on Saturday signed into law a bill [AB 2501 text], prohibiting the so-called "gay panic" defense that has been used to reduce homicide charges to manslaughter. The defense has been used by defendants who claimed that they were "panicked" into committing a crime due to a homosexual individual making an advance on them. Recently the defense has even been used in cases involving transgender individuals. The bill, which will make California the first state to outright ban the defense, was passed by the California State Assembly [official website] by a vote of 50-10. The bill was sponsored by assemblywoman Susan Bonilla [official website], who says that these types of legal defenses make violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people appear to garner a less severe punishment.

California has been at the forefront of legislation regarding LGBT rights. In July Brown signed into law [JURIST report] a bill that will change the language in California's marriage code to accommodate same-sex couples. Last August the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld California's law [JURIST report] prohibiting licensed therapists from counseling minors with the intent to convert their sexual orientation from gay to straight. Also in August the Supreme Court of California ended the last legal challenge [JURIST report] to same-sex marriage in the state by refusing to revive Proposition 8, the state's now-defunct law banning same-sex marriage. The previous month, San Diego County petitioned [JURIST report] California's supreme court seeking to require certain county clerks to enforce Prop 8, arguing that the US Supreme Court's June 2013 decision [JURIST report] upholding the repeal of Prop 8 only applied to two of the state's 58 counties.

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