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California becomes first state in US to ban ‘panic defense’ against gay and trans victims

California becomes first state in US to ban ‘panic defense’ against gay and trans victims

California has become the first state in the US to ban the so-called ‘panic defense’ that has been used successfully by some defendants in court.

Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill which eliminates the excuse that a person was ‘panicked’ into committing a killing or assaulting a gay or trans person during a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion.

Some defendants have succeeded in having homicide or manslaughter charges reduced by saying their violent act was triggered by victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

‘The "panic defense" is a homophobic and transphobic ploy that blames the victims of horrific acts of violence for the crimes committed against them,’ Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said in a statement Monday (29 September).

‘It has no place in California’s legal system, and we applaud Gov. Brown for signing this groundbreaking, first-in-the-nation legislation,’ Zbur added.

The law bans the excuse that ‘the victim made an unwanted non-forcible romantic or sexual advance towards the defendant’ or ]the defendant and victim dated or had a romantic or sexual relationship.’

Authored by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, the bill was passed by both houses of the California State Assembly last month.

Brown, who is up for reelection in November, signed the bill on Saturday (27 October).