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Washington Blade: LGBTQ News, Politics, LGBTQ Rights, Gay News: Delaware poised to become 17th state to ban LGBTQ panic defense


It was an extraordinary week in the Delaware Senate, as a bill to ban the LGBTQ+ panic defense, in which a defendant claims they panicked and killed or injured a victim upon finding out the person was gay or transgender and receive a lesser sentence or even acquittal because of it, passed unanimously.

Every senator, Republican and Democrat, voted for it Wednesday. And every Republican – and Democratic – senator signed up to co-sponsor the bill.

“Thank you to my colleagues and my friends. That is a beautiful statement,” bill sponsor Sen. Sarah McBride said on the Senate floor after the senators signed up. “Other states, this has fortunately been bipartisan, and I’m incredibly proud that we will make clear that this is a bipartisan issue.”

Mark Purpura, a Delaware lawyer who worked on the bill, watched as the bill passed from his home via Zoom.

“It was very moving,” he said. “It moved me to tears. I was crying.”

The defense has been used five times in Delaware, according to research by St. Edward’s University professor W. Carsten Andresen. House sponsor Rep. Eric Morrison pointed to the cases during his House testimony, but the Senate did not seem to be aware of the cases during the vote – the discussion hinged around preventing the possibility of the defense being used, not preventing its future use.

An amendment by Rep. Jeff Spiegelman that would expand the ban to prohibit all panic defenses based on race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, sex, age, gender identity, national origin, and a person’s ancestry failed earlier in the House.

“Promise me there’ll never be a Jew defense,” said Spiegelman, pointing to Nazi Germany, where he said people were allowed to harm Jewish people once they found out their victim was Jewish. “Promise me that that will never be said in this country, and it will never be used in Delaware, and I’ll scrap this amendment right away.”

Morrison did not engage in a discussion with Spiegelman, saying only that he considered the amendment unfavorable. It failed with 25 votes against the amendment and 14 for it.

The House passed the bill mostly along party lines, with all Democrats voting for the bill and most Republicans against. But three Republicans, Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, Rep. Michael Ramone, and Rep. Michael Smith broke party lines and voted for the bill, and Spiegelman did not vote either way on the bill.

Morrison, the bill’s sponsor, said he wasn’t sure what to make of the lack of bipartisanship in the House.

“I wish we had had more support in the House. I worked really hard to try to educate folks about this defense, because so many people had never heard of it,” he said in a short interview. “So that could have been part of the issue. I’m not sure.”

The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. John Carney, a Democrat. His communications team did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Morrison said he does not anticipate any problems.

“Overall,” Morrison said, “I’m just happy that it passed and that we’re going to become the 17th state to ban this defense.”

The post Delaware poised to become 17th state to ban LGBTQ panic defense first appeared on Washington Blade: LGBTQ News, Politics, LGBTQ Rights, Gay News.

The post Delaware poised to become 17th state to ban LGBTQ panic defense appeared first on Washington Blade: LGBTQ News, Politics, LGBTQ Rights, Gay News.

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