California Assembly passes bill to ban use of "trans panic" and "gay panic" defenses

A new bill that would ban people from using the "trans panic" or "gay panic" defenses in court passed California's State Assembly, and is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown. If Brown signs the bill, California will become the first state to enact such a law. The State Assembly approved the bill, AB 2501, on Wednesday, a day after it was approved by the State Senate.

According to the National LGBT Bar Association, "trans panic" and "gay panic" defenses "seek to partially or completely excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction." In 2013, the organization unanimously approved a resolution calling for an end to these defense arguments.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, who introduced California's AB 2501, said in a statement from Equality California on Wednesday:

“There is absolutely no justification for the use of ‘panic defenses.’ Clearly this tactic has been utilized by defendants, unjustly targeting members of the LGBT community, based on damaging stereotypes. With AB 2501, we are moving forward to ensure equality in our courts and making it very clear that discrimination against the LGBT community is intolerable and unacceptable.”

Last year, the American Bar Association adopted a resolution urging “federal, tribal, state, local and territorial governments to take legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of the ‘gay panic’ and ‘trans panic’ defenses.”