As with any laws, there are pros and cons to anti-panic defense legislation like AB 2501. However, the benefits of such laws outweigh the downsides. As supporters of California’s law articulated, allowing defendants to blame their violence on a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity paints a picture that LGBT lives are less valuable than other peoples’, that their suffering is less tragic, and that to harm these individuals should not be punished as severely as other crimes. It shifts the blame from the defendant to the victim, trapping a jury into considering that perhaps the defendant’s actions were justified simply because of who the victim was or how they expressed themselves. Perhaps worst of all, it sends a message that LGBT individuals should accept and even expect this kind of violence towards them; that if they do not want to get hurt or murdered, they should hide their true identities.
Proponents of future anti-panic defense laws may base their support for such laws on several considerations. First and foremost, LGBT individuals have an argument that allowing the use of panic defenses violates their rights under the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. As the Supreme Court cited in Romer v. Evans, “The guaranty of ‘equal protection of the laws is a pledge of the protection of equal laws.’” In Romer, the Court found that a Colorado amendment, proposing to prohibit all legislative or judicial action that would protect homosexuals from discrimination, did not pass rational basis review. The Court stated that the law was both too narrow and too broad, in that it “identif[ies] persons by a single trait and then den[i...
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...adopt anti-panic defense laws, those laws should apply in cases of murder and in less serious cases of physical or sexual assault.
One final argument for the passage of anti-panic defense laws is simply that the time has come. As the ABA stated in their Report, panic defenses are a product of a time when LGBT individuals were regularly seen as lesser and discriminated against. Unfortunately, that discrimination has not completely disappeared – but society has progressed, and these people have become much more accepted. With many states allowing same-sex marriage, and the Supreme Court even considering marriage equality cases this year, LGBT individuals are more accepted than they have ever been. It is high time our laws reflect that acceptance, and refusing to place blame on victims of assault or murder simply because of their LGBT status is a good start.
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