Illinois governor signs ban on ‘gay panic’ defense

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday signed a bill that prevents people from claiming the “gay panic” defense in crimes, making Illinois only the second state to ban the defense.

From Equality Illinois:

The measure, SB 1761, which the governor signed on Friday after unanimously passing both chambers of the General Assembly, is part of the 2017 legislative agenda of Equality Illinois. The agenda also included two other bipartisan bills signed into law in recent days. The LGBTQ Public Service Law (SB 1670), which enhances LGBTQ representation and visibility on state boards and commissions, was approved by Gov. Rauner on Aug. 18. The third bill, HB 1785, modernizes state law so transgender individuals won’t have to undergo unnecessary surgical procedures at great expense in order to correct the gender marker on their birth certificates. It was signed last Friday.

“This is a huge achievement. With the approval of these three bills by the legislature and the governor, Illinois is moving forward on LGBTQ rights while the federal government reverses course and Donald Trump is going against the tide of history,” Johnson said. “These bills improve the lives of LGBTQ Illinoisans, and having them signed into law also improves the social and political fabric for everyone in the state. It could have only happened through the collaboration of Illinois Democrats and Republicans. Working together, we can achieve great things.”

An initiative of Equality Illinois, Senate Bill 1761 was sponsored by state Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston and state Rep. Litesa Wallace of Rockford. The legislation unanimously passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly in May. SB 1761 is, we believe, the first bill in the country supporting LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) rights to pass with unanimous support from a state legislature.

“We applaud Sen. Biss and Rep. Wallace for championing this legislation. ​After we first discussed this issue with them in 2015, they immediately picked up the baton and ran with the bill, working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to build bipartisan support.​ The lives of LGBTQ Illinoisans will be better because of this law,” Johnson said.

Gay or trans panic defenses allow a defendant to receive a lesser sentence, and, in some cases, even avoid being convicted and punished by blaming the defendant’s actions on the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, the only other state that has a similar ban is California.

According to NPR Illinois, the gay panic defense was last used in 2009 when an Illinois man was acquitted of first degree murder after killing his male neighbor who had allegedly made unwanted sexual advances. The defendant stabbed the victim 61 times.