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Capitol Notebook: Ban on using victim’s sexual orientation as defense when charged moving forward in Iowa House
Democratic and Republican lawmakers called the legal defense tactic heinous, insulting and discriminatory
Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau
Jan. 27, 2023 4:57 pm
DES MOINES — Iowa House lawmakers are poised to again pass legislation that would prevent a defendant from using a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity as a mitigating factor if charged with a violent crime or assault.
The House Judiciary Committee this week voted unanimously to advance for a floor vote and recommend passage House Study Bill 6, which bars the so-called “gay panic defense” that has been used successfully in other states by those charged with violent crimes to reduce their sentences.
Defendants who use the legal strategy claim that learning a person is gay, lesbian or transgender in a non-violent sexual advance led to a loss of self-control and the subsequent assault.
Supporters of the bill, both Democrats and Republicans, called the defense tactic “heinous,” “insulting” and discriminatory as it excuses or minimizes violence against LGBTQ+ Iowans.
Bill supporters cite the 2016 killing of Kedarie Johnson, a gender-fluid Burlington teenager who was shot twice by a man who intended to have sex with the 16-year-old, who often presented as female and was dressed in women's clothing on the night of Kedarie ‘s death.
The bill has never been considered in the Iowa Senate, but it has passed the House unanimously twice before.
Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the bill “will get a fair hearing” and ran out of time last session to get it moved for a floor vote in the Senate.
The head of the national teachers union and Gov. Kim Reynolds traded shots via statements regarding Reynolds’ $345 million, state-funded private school financial aid package that she signed into law this week.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a statement to Fox Business criticized Reynolds’ plan, saying it will put new money in private schools’ hands while leaving communities “holding the bag.”
“Parents and families, no matter where they live, want safe, well-funded public schools, not schemes to funnel taxpayers’ money to the wealthy few,” Weingarten said in the statement.
“The governor of Iowa is risking real political damage by doing the bidding of Betsy DeVos. After her midterms failure in Michigan, DeVos has leaned on the Iowa Legislature to ram through a reckless spending spree opposed by conservatives and liberals alike.”
Reynolds responded with her own statement, which included criticism of Weingarten for supporting schools that chose to operate virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Education is not a zero-sum game. And shame on Weingarten for thinking that political outcomes are what matters here,” Reynolds said in her statement.
“In Iowa, we’re funding students over systems and putting kids first. If the teachers union started thinking that way, families would be better off. With Weingarten at the helm, I know that will never happen.”
More Bird v. Biden
Iowa has signed onto a multistate lawsuit over a federal rule that would allow retirement plan managers to consider climate change and other social governance factors when investing.
In a statement, Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird alleges the proposed rule would put retirement savings “at risk.”
“Americans spend a lifetime working and saving for their retirement. They don’t deserve political agendas illegally driving investment decisions that cost them money,” Bird said.
Bird, a Republican, also joined six other governors in repeating Midwest states’ request that the federal government approve the year-round sale of the E15 ethanol blend in other states.
Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau