Calif. governor signs bill prohibiting ‘gay panic’ defense in murder charges

Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.)

Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) AP

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Saturday signed legislation that prohibits the so called “gay panic” defense from being used to escape murder charges.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.)AP

Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.)

Current state law allows murder charges to be reduced to manslaughter if the killings happened in a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion.

But under the bill, approved by the Assembly last month, defendants would be barred from using their victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity to support such a defense.

The bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord), says such defenses legitimize violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The American Bar Association last year urged governments to curtail the use of panic defenses, saying such defenses represent “the notion that LGBT lives are worth less than other lives.”

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The gay rights group Equality California says when the law takes effect, California will have the first statewide prohibition.

On Friday, Brown signed the the “Respect After Death Act,” a bill to allow transgender Californians the right to have their gender identity properly recognized on death certificates.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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