Iowa House passes bill to prohibit so-called ‘gay panic’ defense

Des Moines, Ia- The Iowa House has unanimously passed a bill to prohibit defendants charged with a violent crime from claiming temporary insanity because they discovered the victim was gay or transgender.

Representative Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton says defendants in several other states have used this so-called “gay panic” argument and their sentences were substantially reduced.

“I think the message we’re all sending here today is the unspeakably offensive defense that has been successfully used is not welcome in Iowa,” Kaufmann says, “and will be banned in Iowa.”

Before the bill passed the House, Representative Liz Bennett of Cedar Rapids asked for a moment of silence for Kedarie Johnson, a gender-fluid teenager who was murdered in Burlington in 2016.

“Two men were later charged in connection with Kedarie’s death,” Bennett says. “They had intended to have sex with Kedarie and then murdered them when the men found out that Kedarie had male genitalia, both claiming that they were in a fit of rage.”

In 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a federal lawyer with experience on hate crimes cases to Iowa to serve as the local prosecutor and both men were convicted of Johnson’s murder.