Bill to Curb “Panic Defense” Passes Assembly
By Steve Roth

The California Assembly passed AB 2501, a bill authored by Assembly member Susan Bonilla that is designed to curb the so-called “panic defense” by making it clear that a defendant’s discovery of a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not sufficient provocation to reduce a charge of murder to manslaughter. The bill, which is co-sponsored by Equality California and Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, passed by a bipartisan vote of 50-18.

“The bipartisan support for AB 2501 in the Assembly is a strong indicator that California is done with these bogus ‘panic’ defenses,” said John O’Connor, Equality California executive director. ”A victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity should never be used to mitigate the punishment for a crime, and we thank Assembly member Bonilla and Attorney General Harris for their leadership on this issue.”

“Currently, a panic defense allows a criminal defendant to claim that violence against the LGBT community is understandable or acceptable, when it is absolutely inexcusable” said Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla. “AB 2501 strikes the correct balance of allowing a person to present evidence in his or her defense, while ensuring that biases do not mitigate violent crimes against members of the LGBT community.”

Including AB 2501, four EQCA bills have now passed out of their houses of origin:

AB 1951, authored by Assembly member Jimmy Gomez, would modernize California birth certificates by allowing parents to choose to self-designate as “father,” “mother” or “parent,” eliminating inaccurate designations and confusion for same-sex parents. AB 1951 passed with a bipartisan majority of 53-14.

SB 1306, authored by Senator Mark Leno and co-sponsored with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, brings California statutory law into line with last June’s Supreme Court decision restoring the freedom to marry in California. References to “husband” and “wife” would be replaced with gender-neutral language such as “spouse” to recognize all married couples throughout California code. SB 1306 passed with a bipartisan majority of 25-10.

AB 1577, the Respect After Death Act, authored by Speaker Toni Atkins and co-sponsored with Transgender Law Center, would make sure death certificates for transgender Californians accurately reflect their authentic, lived identity. AB 1577 passed with a bipartisan majority of 62-5.

Two additional EQCA-sponsored bills will be voted on before the end of August. Those bills are SB 323, authored by Senator Ricardo Lara, which clarifies that nonprofit youth organizations will only be rewarded with special tax exemptions if they comply with California’s existing nondiscrimination laws, and AB 496, authored by Assembly member Rich Gordon, which clarifies that existing cultural competency training for health care providers should include discussion of LGBT issues.


United Nations To Begin Recognizing Staff Members’ Legal Same-Sex Unions

The United Nations has announced it will begin recognizing staff members’ legal same-sex unions according to the laws where the union was established. The change was detailed in a policy statement issued by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on June 26:

“Previously, a staff member’s personal status was determined by the laws applicable in their country of nationality. Now, personal status will be determined instead by the law of the competent authority under which the personal status was established.”

Describing the new policy, Ban said, “Human rights are at the core of the mission of the United Nations. I am proud to stand for greater equality for all staff, and I call on all members of our UN family to unite in rejecting homophobia as discrimination that can never be tolerated at our workplace.”

“All staff members are part of the UN family and deserve to be treated equally,” he added, in an article posted on LinkedIn.

The landmark policy reform follows a pledge by the Secretary-General to address discrimination against staff based on sexual orientation.

“What this means is simple: if you are in a legal union, the UN will recognize it. If you were thinking of entering into one, you can now do so with the full knowledge that the UN will recognize it, said Hyung Hak Nam (Alfonso), President of UN-GLOBE, which represents LGBT UN staff.


Berlusconi Changes His Tune On Gay Rights

The leader of Forza Italia, (a liberal-conservative, Christian-democratic and liberalpolitical party in Italy, with a large social-democratic minority), Silvio Berlusconi, four times Prime Minister of Italy, takes the field for the defense of the rights of gays and lesbians.

“The fight for civil rights for homosexuals is a fight that in a truly modern and democratic country should be everyone’s responsibility,” Berlusconi said, reports La Repubblica.

“As a liberal, I believe that through a broad and in-depth debate we can reach a reasonable objective for justice and civilization.”

Berlusconi, 77, made the remarks the day after a number of LGBT pride marches were held across Italy, which saw tens of thousands of Italians take to the streets in support of gay rights. The remarks also came hours after his girlfriend Francesca Pascale and Vittorio Feltri, a journalist at Il Giornale, a newspaper owned by the Berlusconi family, signed up to Italy’s main gay rights organization Arcigay, reports The Local.

Berlusconi has a history of anti-gay gaffes, including in 2010 when he was quoted as saying “my passion for women is better than being gay” as he fought of allegations of sex parties.