DES MOINES — An Iowa House subcommittee has again advanced a bill to ban what’s been called the “gay panic defense.” It would prevent defendants charged with a violent crime from claiming temporary insanity because they discovered the victim was gay, lesbian or transgender.
The bill has never been considered in the Iowa Senate, but it has passed the House unanimously twice before. Representative Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton said he’s hoping persistence pays off this year.
“Nothing’s changed in my mind,” said Kaufmann, chair of the three-member subcommittee. “I find the use of this defense preposterous and heinous and it does not pass the common sense test that this should be a defense.”
Keenan Crow of One Iowa, a group that advocates for lesbian, gay and transgender Iowans, addressed the House subcommittee that advanced the bill.
“Thank you for bringing this forward again. I appreciate the tenacity of the House on this matter. I do think it’s important enough to merit a third vote,” Crow said. “What this bill does is it outlaws a discriminatory defense tactic that is based on excusing or minimizing the actions of a perpetrator based on the characteristics of their victim.”
Defendants in a few other states have been able to use a “panic defense” to reduce their sentences. Supporters of the bill cite the 2016 murder in Burlington. During House debate of the proposal last year, a state representative asked for a moment of silence for Kedarie Johnson, a 16-year-old who was wearing women’s clothing the night he was killed by two men.