Jerry Brown has been gettin' it. The California governor has signed several landmark pieces of legislation this week, including the "yes means yes" policy and a gun restriction that allows for better intervention for troubled family members. He signed another first-of-its-kind bill into law on Saturday, but this one is a little more shocking because how the hell could this have even existed in the first place? California is the only state to place a ban on gay or trans "panic" defenses, which allows people to plead temporary insanity in murder and assault cases against LGBTQ people.
Yes. This is a real legal defense that people have successfully used. By claiming "gay panic" or "trans panic," you can plead a form of temporary insanity for assaulting or killing someone an LGBTQ person because you suffer from a little-known psychological disorder called "homosexual panic."
"Homosexual panic," by the way, was entered into the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — which gives official standing to disorders — in 1952. In 1952, doctors still officially endorsed cigarettes and people thought segregated schools were a good idea. SO.
The defense was famously used in the murder of Larry King, who was shot twice in the back of the head by his 14-year-old classmate Brandon McInerney. McInerney's lawyers said their client snapped and was threatened by sexual advances from King. The judge declared a mistrial, but McInerney's lawyers successfully brokered his charge down to second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary because the 15-year-old he shot was gay.
I want to be happy that California is leading the way in banning this "gay panic," but I'm too busy being horrified that it is still a viable defense within our legal system in 49 states. People scoff at defenses such as "affluenza" and other ludicrous lawyer pandering, but blocking "gay panic" and "trans panic" does more than close this horrible legal loop hole. This new law will hopefully stop the cycle of victim blaming in violent attacks.
Basically, what you're saying by using this defense is that a killer or attacker is justified in their actions because LGBTQ people have offended their sensitive ideas about gender identity or sexual norms. Because that seems like a totally rational reason to kill someone! And how dare they not uphold the ideals of someone who is unstable enough to be driven to kill based on something like that!
So snaps to California for the zillionth time for being progressive enough to ban a completely bullshit defense. Now let's hope they topple across the country.
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