News (USA)

Minnesota finally bans the LGBTQ+ panic defense

Gov. Tim Walz
Gov. Tim Walz Photo: Dave Schwarz, [email protected] via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Last Friday, Minnesota passed H.F. 5216, a bill that bans the infamous LGBTQ+ panic defense, the LA Blade reports. The LGBTQ+ panic defense is when a defendant argues that they “panicked” when they learned that their victim was LGBTQ+ as an excuse for anti-LGBTQ+ violence.

Signed by Gov. Tim Walz (D) after making its way through the state’s House of Representatives and Senate, the panic defense ban is a small part of a larger omnibus bill relating to judicial funding and regulations. It will go into effect on August 1, 2024.

“Our community is still grieving and healing from the horrific violence that ended the life of our trans/two-spirit relative, Savannah Ryan Williams and her family deserves justice,” said state Rep. Brion Curran (D) in a statement.

“It is far past time to ban the LGBTQ+ panic defense, which allows criminals to exploit a temporary emotional state to excuse heinous acts. True justice demands accountability, and this bill sends a clear message of support for our LGBTQ2S+ neighbors.”

The text of the bill states, “Force may not be used against another based on the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

It goes on to outline this ban in more detail, placing the precise ban shortly after restrictions on intoxication as a defense for crimes.

Gay and trans panic defenses have been used at least 351 times in homicide cases alone, gaining notoriety after being used in high-profile cases like the Matthew Sheperd murder trial and the Islan Nettles murder trial.

According to the LGBTQ+ Bar Association, there is no consensus on how effective these defenses are on average. However, there are documented cases of it being used to mitigate murder charges. Additionally, one researcher claims that charges are reduced over 30% of the time as a result of these defenses.

Minnesota joins the 19 other states and territories in its banning of this defense, with the other states including New York, California, and Colorado.

The bill originated in 2018 as bills S.F. 2633 and H.F. 3045 in 2018, however neither received any motion. It was re-introduced as a new bill earlier last year as S.F. 1964, and was introduced by state Sens. Scott Dibble (D), Clare Oumou Verbeten (D), Ron Latz (D), and Jim Carlson (D). It also did not receive any motion during its time in the office.

It was then re-introduced again as H.F. 4657 by state Rep. Curran, one of the few out lawmakers in the state. It was initially just about the ban of the panic defense, with no other provisions.

H.F. 4657 was tabled on May 13. However, just five days later, a conference committee, in which Curran was a member, folded it into H.F. 5216 in a slightly amended form.

The bill then passed through the state senate in a tight 34-33 vote, entirely along party lines.

Minnesota is one of a few trans refuge states, taking in people who have had their healthcare stripped away in states like Florida or Missouri.

Recently, Minnesota has banned ideological book bans in a move that will help keep LGBTQ+ literature in libraries. The state is one of a few to consider bills that require healthcare plans to cover gender-affirming care.

“Gay and trans Minnesotans deserve the same protections under the law as all our neighbors receive,” said state Sen. Bonnie Westlin (D) in a statement. “Gay and trans panic defenses are based on irrational fears and prejudice toward LGBTQ+ people, and they imply that violence against LGBTQ+ people is acceptable under certain conditions.”

”I am proud to see our state continue to protect LGBTQ+ Minnesotans, especially when they are victims of violent crime.”

LGBTQ Nation reached out to Gov. Walz, Curran, and state Sen. Jeremy Miller (R) but they did not respond before publication.

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