Laws like the ones being proposed give too little credit to juries. It's assuming immediately that a jury would be unable to overcome prejudice towards homosexuals and would thus excuse their murder.
Here's what I find interesting:
California's bill also would instruct juries that gay panic defenses are inconsistent with state laws protecting gays, lesbians and transgenders from discrimination.
It was prompted by the murder of 17-year-old Gwen Araujo, a transgender teenager who was beaten and strangled in 2002 after two men with whom she'd had anal sex learned she was biologically male.
Apparently, the prosecutor won 2nd-degree murder charges in that case. Which strikes me as appropriate. I have sympathy for the defense in such a situation. I'd be pretty upset, too, if I found out that I'd just unknowingly had sex with a man. It goes without saying, but that doesn't excuse the murder.
I'm not a law expert, short of the many hours of Law and Order I've watched. Murder that isn't pre-meditated would either fall under the 3rd-degree category, or under voluntary manslaughter. I'm assuming the latter carries a lesser sentence.
The prosecutor was able to show that the murder was premeditated. I suppose that would boil down to the specifics of the case, so I can't comment on that in general. But I think the premise of a law which would prevent this kind of defense is poor.
As I understand it, the point of the "Gay Panic Defense" is to argue for a lesser charge, i.e. to prove a crime of passion, that it wasn't premeditated. This law would essentially deny that a person could be, to put it bluntly, grossed out by homosexuality. This puts homosexuality in yeat another "special category" of law, along with things such as "hate crimes." I don't think such laws have a place in this country and I don't think they'll do anything useful, aside from limiting juries from considering evidence that may or may not be relevant to a case.
Okay, let's try this from a different tack.
There is an episode of Family Guy where Brian is a drug sniffing dog for the airports and Quagmire, a pilot, wonders how good he is. Here is the dialog:
Quagmire: Hey Brian, what's with the Johnny Law routine?
Joe: Say hello to our newest narc. He's a natural.
Quagmire: Oh yeah? How good are you?
Brian: *Sniffs Quagmire*. You're back from Manila. You
had lumpia for dinner. Then you made love to two Phillipeno
women *sniffs* . . . and a man.
Quagmire: You mean three Phillipeno women?
Brian: *Just stares at Quagmire*
Quagmire: *A look of horror appears on his face. He runs
screaming from the scene.*
It is with this sense of "gay panic" that I sympathize. The "Oh crap, what did I just do?" panic. Not the "I just had sex with a dude? Crap, I have to kill him!"
If it's not obvious by now, I completely misunderstood the "Gay Panic" defense. The CNN article did not articulate and I probably should have learned more about it before speaking. Well, that's what blogging will get you sometimes.
As I understood it, the "Gay Panic" defense would be used to argue a lesser sentence, arguing crimes of passion rather than premeditated assaults or murders. I was wrong on that count, it was "I had no control over my actions so I should get off scot-free."
I don't endorse such a defense for getting away with murder. If you read the original post, I never did.
In any case, I still think the law is unnecessary, mostly because a good prosecutor will, during the jury selection phase, eliminate jurors who think that it's acceptable to murder homosexuals. The system is already designed to accomplish this, so why is a law necessary?