(WB) The Maryland House of Delegates Wednesday unanimously passed a bill that would ban the so-called LGBT panic defense in the state.
“No Marylander should be denied justice because of who they are,” state Del. Julie Palakovich Carr (D-Montgomery County), the bill’s sponsor, told the Washington Blade. “The unanimous passage of HB 231 by the House reaffirms that LGBTQ+ rights are human rights. I look forward to the Senate acting on the bill so that Maryland can join a growing list of states that have passed this important protection.”
House Bill 231 would ban a defendant’s use of the “discovery” of a victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation as “a defense to the crime of assault in any degree.”
The bill was previously introduced during the 2020 session, which was shortened due to the pandemic. It passed in the House last year with one dissenting vote from state Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County).
Parrott on Wednesday voted for HB 231. Newly state Del. Brenda Thiam (R-Washington County) also backed it.
“Everyone’s life matters no matter your skin color, race, national origin, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation,” Thiam told the Blade. “Hopefully more bills can be a unanimous vote and political affiliations won’t matter.”
Thiam is a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee. She is also the first Black female GOP legislator in the General Assembly.
“I’m really pleased to hear that this bill has advanced through the Maryland House of Delegates,” state Sen. Clarence Lam (D-Montgomery County), the bill’s sponsor in the Maryland Senate, told the Blade. “The fact that there was not a single vote in opposition is particularly meaningful to show how unacceptable it is to single out an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity as a defense in committing a crime.”
State Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), who is openly gay, also applauded the vote.
“Passing HB 231 out of the House today was a momentous occasion and exciting moment for me both personally and professionally,” the Baltimore City Democrat told the Blade.
The LGBT Bar Association has pushed for the adoption of bills to ban the use of the LGBT panic defense across the country.
Eleven states and D.C. have all passed similar bills. A bill introduced by Virginia state Del. Danica Roem, who is the first openly transgender woman elected to a state legislature in the U.S., now awaits Gov. Ralph Northam’s signature.
“We are ecstatic to finally join the nation in declaring that gender and sexual identity can never be an excuse or reason for committing violence,” FreeState Justice Executive Director Jeremy LaMaster told the Blade. “As we finalize this important piece of legislation, we look forward to continuing to expand our protections for transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer Marylanders.”
LaMaster cautioned the final passage of this ban would be “just the beginning” as more work is needed to systematically address violence against LGBT Marylanders.
“After the death of Kim Wirtz, a Black trans woman detained in a male cell at Baltimore Central Booking, Baltimore Safe Haven, FreeState Justice, and many other organizations are calling for much-needed prison reform to protect LGBTQ detained and incarcerated people from violence,” he said.
Still, Lam was encouraged by Wednesday’s unanimous House vote.
“I am hopeful that the resounding support for this important bill will help advance its passage through the Senate of Maryland,” Lam said. “And I intend to continue to champion the passage of the companion bill to make sure we can get this enacted into law this year.”
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee is expected to vote on the bill later this month.