The Column

MN Senators introduce ban on LGBTQ panic defense

Lawmakers introduced a bill last week that would make the gay and trans panic defenses unenforceable in court. For decades, perpetrators of violent crimes against LGBTQ people have used gay and trans panic defenses in order to garner reduced sentences. Often the panic defense relies on “temporary insanity” of the perpetrator against a LGBTQ person because the victim revealed a LGBTQ status in an intimate relationship.

California and Illinois have banned the gay and trans panic defense; California did so in 2006 and Illinois in 2017.

Senate File 2633 was introduced by Senators Scott Dibble of Minneapolis, Sandy Pappas of St. Paul, Tony Lourey of Kerrick, and Ron Latz of St. Louis Park.

The bill was referred to the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy. That committee is chaired by Sen. Warren Limmer of Maple Grove, a Republican who has been extremely hostile to issues of equity for LGBTQ Minnesotans.

The first section of the bill would put into law the concept that use of force is not authorized in reaction to someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill states:

Use of force not authorized; reaction to victim’s sexual orientation.
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, including gender identity and expression, including under circumstances in which the victim made an unwanted nonforcible romantic or sexual advance towards the actor, or if the actor and victim dated or had a romantic or sexual relationship.

The bill would also eliminate the LGBTQ panic defense:

It is not a defense to a crime that the defendant acted based on the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, including gender identity and expression, including under circumstances in which the victim made an unwanted nonforcible romantic or sexual advance towards the defendant, or if the defendant and victim dated or had a romantic or sexual relationship.

The bill is modeled after one developed by the Williams Institute at the University of California – Los Angeles as part of a broad study of the use of these panic defenses.

Update February 27: A companion bill, HF3045, has been introduced in the Minnesota House by DFL Rep. Erin Maye-Quade.

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