The overtly bisexual governor indicators a regulation banning so-called “homosexual panic” protection in Oregon
On May 23, openly bisexual Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat representing Oregon, signed Senate Law 704, outlawing the state’s defense of LGBTQ “panic” murder. This law is particularly relevant to Oregon because Aja Raquell Rhone-Stevens, a 32-year-old openly trans-black woman, was killed in the state just last year. Her sister Dana Spears made a statement after the Oregon House passed the law last year. As reported by LGBTQ Nation, Spears said in part, “When we finally see justice for Aja’s murder, we can ensure that her memory is not offended by someone trying to use panic defenses when we appear in the courtroom to justify her death. “
In particular, SB 704 states in part that “the discovery of a victim’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation is not a reasonable explanation for extreme emotional disturbance for the purpose of affirmative defense against second degree murder”. This should be common sense, of course, but thanks to the decades of homophobia and transphobia that have infiltrated the judicial system, it’s unfortunately no surprise that we now need to remove these terrible defenses from the system.
Prior to Brown’s signing of SB 704, openly gay Senator Katie Liebert described the law as a “relic of hatred” against LGBTQ + people, stressing that “no one should be able to justify any person’s identity or” act of violence against them to apologize. The legal protection for bigotry is absolutely unacceptable and the repeal of this outdated and hateful law is long overdue. “
So what’s up with these awful laws and how many are left on the books? Currently, only 14 states have banned the fight against gay panics, including California, Illinois, Nevada, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Maine, Washington State, Colorado, Virginia, Vermont, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, DC The American Bar Association ( ABA) passed a resolution back in 2013 calling for an end to this defense strategy, and states have been gradually banning it since then. However, panic defense among gays has been widespread since the 1960s, when LGBTQ + was considered a mental illness.
While panic defenses could certainly be used to defend people who commit crimes against a marginalized group – for example on the basis of race or ethnicity, in addition to gender identity – LGBTQ + panic defenses have a shockingly strong history of working for defendants in the court system. Research shows that over 25% of transgender people will experience hate crimes during their lifetime, and one in five lesbian, gay, or bisexual people will too. Colored transsexuals, and especially transsexuals, are particularly at risk. By and large, we need far more laws to protect all marginalized people – LGBTQ or not – and far fewer loopholes that essentially justify fear, hatred and otherness from the perspective of those in power.