Virginia lawmakers passed a bill that will ban the use of a person’s perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity as a defense in court for the assault or murder of an LGBTQ person.
“It’s done: We’re banning the gay/trans panic defense in Virginia,” Del. Danica Roem, D-Manassas, said in a Twitter post.
Roem introduced House Bill 2132, which passed the Senate 23-15 on Thursday with an amendment. The House approved the amendment in a 58-39 vote. The bill now heads to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for a signature.
The Senate amendment adds oral solicitation or hitting on someone, as an unacceptable justification for the gay or transgender panic defense.
The panic defense has historically been used in cases where a member of the LGBTQ community was attacked because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Defendants use the panic defense to justify “heat of passion” murders or assaults.
“This [bill] means someone’s mere existence as an LGBTQ person does not excuse someone else and does not constitute a reasonable provocation to commit such a heat of passion attack,” Roem said.
The statute does not dismiss traditional self-defense lawsuits. This means LGBTQ people can still be prosecuted for attacking someone.
There have been at least eight instances in Virginia where the panic defense was used, with the last case in 2011, according to Carsten Andresen, a researcher and criminal justice professor from Austin, Texas. He said he has tracked 200 homicide cases nationally where the panic defense was attempted. Andresen reached out to Roem in support of the bill.
His research included five murders and three assaults in Virginia between 1973 and 2011 that Andresen said used the panic defense to justify or excuse a defendant’s violent actions. Mark Hayes murdered Tracie Gainer, a transgender woman, in 2002. Hayes claimed he “lost it” and murdered Gainer after engaging in sexual intercourse. In 2011, Deandre Moore, age 18, pleaded guilty to killing 20-year-old Jacques Cowell by stabbing him multiple times. Cowell was openly gay and there were witness accounts that the two had a physical relationship. Moore received a 40-year prison sentence, with 15 years suspended.
“In these cases, criminal defense attorneys used gay and trans panic defense to put the victim (rather than the offender) on trial,” Andresen wrote in support of the bill. He said the use of the panic defense “suggests that it is permissible to commit violence” against LGBTQ people.
Sen. Joseph Morrissey, D-Richmond, spoke in opposition of the bill, saying lawmakers should not pass laws that prohibit defendants from making a defense and that lawmakers would be going “down a very slippery slope.” Morrissey said any defendant who would offer the panic defense “would of course be rejected.”
Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said this is not the first time Virginia has expressly prohibited a defense. Legislators repealed in 2008 the code section that provided defense from carnal knowledge when a defendant marries a child 14 years or older.
“When we have found an affirmative defense to be abhorrent to public policy we have gotten rid of it,” McClellan said.
McClellan said she wished she could agree with Morrissey that no judge would accept the panic defense, but referred back to the Virginia cases where it was used successfully.
“We know the bill is constitutional, we know also, the bill has existing precedence, which is why it has earned overwhelming bipartisan support in statehouses across the country,” Roem said.
The American Bar Association in 2013 recommended that local, state, and federal legislatures curtail the availability and effectiveness of the gay and transgender panic defense. Roem said that similar bills have been implemented in other state legislatures. Virginia will become the 12th state to ban the panic defense, according to the policy organization Movement Advancement Project.
The defense is also banned in the District of Columbia.
There are currently 39 states that allow the panic defense to be used in cases where hate crimes resulted in the assault or murder of an LGBTQ individual. This typically results in a murder charge being lessened to a charge of manslaughter or acquittal.
Roem said she worked with Wes Bizzell, president of the National LGBT Bar Association, to prepare the bill. She also thanked Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, for speaking in support of the bill in committee.
Matthew Shepard, a gay man, was murdered in 1998 in Laramie, Wyoming. The judge barred Aaron McKinney’s defense lawyer from using the gay panic defense in the murder trial. McKinney said Shepard’s advances triggered memories of sexual abuse he suffered as a child. Police said the crime was motivated by robbery, but Shepard’s sexual orientation likely made him the target. There were four people involved in the brutal crime. Two were found guilty of murder and two were charged with being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.
Roem was in high school when Matthew Shepard was murdered. She said the case had a profound effect on her and prevented her from coming out due to a fear of being ostracized and attacked.
“It was requested to me by one of my Manassas Park student constituents who’s out, hoping not to have to live in the same fear in 2021 that I did in 1998,” Roem said of the bill.
Roem said there are people who don’t believe hate crimes such as the one against Shepard happen today in Virginia. She affirmed that they do happen, and she believes it is time to do something about it.
“We have to look at this from the perspective of ‘what do we do to make an affirmative statement that LGBTQ lives matter and that you can’t just kill us for existing,” Roem said.
By Cierra Parks
Capital News Service
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.
Governor Youngkin announces School Choice Proclamation
On January 26, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced this week as School Choice week, and issued a proclamation highlighting the importance of school choice for Virginia’s students and parents.
“As your governor, I will continually stand up for students and parents and will sign the largest education budget in Virginia’s history. Our goal is that every student will graduate high school ready to go to college or start a great career. Choice and innovation within public education is vital to achieving that goal. That’s why together we will not only raise standards and raise teacher pay, but we will invest $150 million to kick start 20 new charter schools in the Commonwealth. We must empower parents and students with choice and innovation in K-12 public education,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin.
Read a full copy of the School Choice proclamation below.
Virginia School Choice Week
WHEREAS, all children in Virginia should have access to a high quality public education; and,
WHEREAS, Virginia recognizes the important role that a quality education plays in preparing all students in Virginia for success in life; and,
WHEREAS, quality education is critically important to the economic vitality and vibrancy of the communities of the Commonwealth; and,
WHEREAS, students have different needs and learning styles and a monolithic delivery of education does not serve the myriad needs of families;
WHEREAS, Virginia currently has only 7 charter schools, but its neighboring state of North Carolina has close to 200 and the District of Columbia has 123; and,
WHEREAS, School Choice Week is celebrated across the country by millions of students, parents, educators, schools, and organizations to raise awareness of the need for effective educational options.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Glenn Youngkin, do hereby recognize January 23 – January 29, 2022
as VIRGINIA SCHOOL CHOICE WEEK in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and
I call this observance to the attention of all of our citizens, and proclaim that:
Virginia must empower parents by creating innovation within K-12 public schools to best adapt to the needs of Commonwealth’s students; and,
Virginia is committed to increasing education options for its youth by seeking $150 million to help meet a goal of starting at least 20 new public charter schools in the Commonwealth; and,
Virginia will build partnerships between the Commonwealth and our great universities to create lab schools of excellence; and,
Virginia will raise education standards to elevate students to high performing levels and reinstitute merit-based acceptance to Governor’s and magnet schools; and,
Virginia will empower parents to make choices about the educational needs of their children.
Virginia Department of Elections releases post-elections report
Recently, the Virginia Department of Elections (ELECT) released its annual post-election report for the 2021 November General Election; this report not only generates a historical record of the election, but it also highlights its successes and areas where improvements could be made.
The November 2021 General Election continued to pose the same challenges election administrators faced in November 2020: an ongoing global health pandemic and a monumental dissemination of misinformation and disinformation about the legitimacy of the electoral process.
Following each November General Election since 2018, ELECT has produced this report to highlight several areas of work done in 2021 to include law and regulatory changes impacting the administration of elections, participation in the election, key challenges/major issues, and election administration tasks completed.
The report also spotlights initiatives such as Virginia’s successful Voter Education and Outreach Campaign and collaborating with partners such as Virginia’s Medical Reserve Corps as well as the United States Postal Service to help mitigate challenges brought on by issues such as COVID-19.
“ELECT produces the post-election report annually to reinforce our agency’s continued commitment to transparency” said Christopher Piper, Virginia Department of Elections’ Commissioner. “We are proud to be able to document the work that the Commonwealth’s election administrators, electoral board members, and ELECT staff do to conduct secure and accurate elections in Virginia.”
The post-election report was presented by Commissioner Piper at the January 18 meeting of the State Board of Elections. You can find a copy of the report on ELECT’s website here.
Governor Youngkin announces updated guidelines for parents, educators, and preK-12 schools
On January 21, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced updated guidelines for parents, educators, and schools per Executive Order 2, which creates a parental opt-out from mask mandates at both public and private schools in the Commonwealth. The guidelines were developed by the Virginia Department of Health and the Department of Education.
“I have said all along that we are going to stand up for parents. Executive Order 2 is not about pro-masks versus anti-mask, it’s about empowering parents. I am confident that the Virginia Supreme Court will rule in the favor of parents, reaffirming the parental rights clearly laid out in the Virginia code § 1-240.1. In the meantime, I urge all parents to listen to their principal and trust the legal process. If you have any questions or concerns please contact us at email@example.com,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin.
The updated guidance is redesigned around Governor Youngkin’s key principles of parental rights, keeping kids in the classroom five days a week, and keeping kids safe and healthy. The update guidelines:
- Emphasizes alternative mitigation measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 including vaccination, distancing, and outbreak awareness.
- Provides a clear decision tree for parents to review when trying to determine how to keep and return children to the classroom.
- Strongly encourages test-to-stay and other strategies to keep and return kids to the classroom as quickly as possible
- Gives schools practicable flexibility on contact tracing, distancing, and other strategies.
Governor Youngkin announces legislative agenda priorities
RICHMOND, VA—On January 21, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced the legislation, budget amendments, and initiatives he will be supporting to further his Day One Agenda priorities.
“Today, I am proud to share the more than 59 pieces of legislation and a package of more than 25 budget amendments that I will be supporting. These reflect bipartisan priorities like fully eliminating the grocery tax, doing more to train and equip our workforce, and providing funding to create 20 new innovation schools across the Commonwealth. These initiatives will make Virginia’s communities safer, restore academic excellence, lower the cost of living, and I look forward to seeing these bills come to my desk,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin.
Governor Youngkin announces Covid Action Plan
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – On January 20, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced his COVID Action Plan concurrent with Executive Order Number Eleven to provide hospitals, health systems, nursing facilities, and other healthcare providers the tools necessary to combat COVID-19. The plan also includes issuing clear testing guidelines to prioritize the use of COVID rapid tests and marshaling further resources to encourage Virginians to get the vaccine.
“While many families have experienced tragedy over the last two years, Virginians have truly embodied the spirit of Virginia as they came together to fight a common enemy—COVID-19,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “Today’s announcements are designed to give Virginians the tools and resources needed to make the best decisions for their families, strengthen our hospital systems, and ensure a strong recovery as we encounter new challenges associated with the pandemic that has become part of our everyday life.”
COVID-19 Vaccine Marshall Plan for Virginia
Governor Glenn Youngkin will devote additional resources and efforts to encouraging the nearly 1.6 million Virginians who are still unvaccinated to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Data shows that people vaccinated from COVID-19 are 4 times less likely to be hospitalized than those who are not. Governor Youngkin’s actions include:
- Directing the Secretary of Health to re-prioritize resources toward vaccine education and outreach, including expanded efforts in disproportionately unvaccinated communities.
- Plan to host and attend COVID-19 vaccine events across the Commonwealth.
- Working with Governors across the country to learn best practices on vaccine education.
- Empowering Virginia with choices, not mandates.
- Expanded Healthcare Flexibility & Support
Governor Glenn Youngkin signed Executive Order #11 to give healthcare providers flexibility and support to battle staffing shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and unconstitutional federal mandates on healthcare workers. Virginia’s hospitals and healthcare facilities are in crisis. Governor Youngkin’s actions include:
- Allowing hospitals and nursing homes to rapidly expand bed capacity by waiving regulations.
- Providing flexibility for qualified out-of-state nurses and healthcare professionals to practice in Virginia.
- Creating appropriate exemptions to the scope of practice requirements to allow healthcare providers to care for patients in this difficult time.
- Expanding the number of providers available to offer the Covid-19 vaccine.
- Expanding flexibility, overtime hours, and availably for personal care workers.
- Prioritized Testing Guidelines
Governor Glenn Youngkin will prioritize testing guidelines to mitigate supply-chain shortages for COVID-19 tests. The Governor will discourage mass testing for the purposes of pre-screening, discourage asymptomatic individuals from testing, and urge healthy individuals with mild symptoms to stay home and use discretion on testing. Governor Youngkin’s actions include:
- Expedite pending orders of rapid tests.
- Redeploy unused tests at state agencies and other non-essential facilities to schools, hospitals, and nursing facilities.
- Directing the State Health Commissioner to issue new guidelines that prioritize the use of rapid tests for key categories including Students potentially exposed to COVID-19 who need to test to remain in school. Essential healthcare professionals and other essential workers needing to be tested to return to work. Vulnerable citizens including those in nursing facilities and over the age of 65. Those with serious medical conditions and their caregivers. Those who need to be tested after consultation with a healthcare provider.
Virginia State Police welcomes 58 new troopers to serve
On Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, the Commonwealth will graduate its 135th generation of Virginia State Troopers. The 58 new troopers will be presented their diplomas during commencement exercises at 10 a.m. at the State Police Training Academy located at 7700 Midlothian Turnpike in North Chesterfield County. Governor Glenn Youngkin will speak at the graduation ceremony.
“Completing the training here at the Virginia State Police Training Academy is no easy feat, and when you add the challenges COVID has brought, the bar is raised even higher,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “These 58 Trooper-trainees have put their heart and soul into becoming the very best troopers they can be. I am impressed with their resiliency and dedication during the last 27 weeks.”
The new troopers have received more than 1,300 hours of classroom and field instruction in more than 100 different subjects, including de-escalation techniques, strategies to assist people in mental health crisis, ethics and leadership, fair and impartial policing, constitutional law, emergency medical trauma care, and public and community relations. The members of the 135th Basic Session began their 27 weeks of academic, physical and practical training at the Academy July 6, 2021.
The soon-to-be graduates of the 135th Basic Session are from every corner of the Commonwealth, as well as Ohio, Oklahoma, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Vermont and the countries of Germany and Mongolia.
Upon graduation, the new troopers will report to their individual duty assignments across Virginia the week of Jan. 31. For their final phase of training, each trooper will spend an additional six weeks paired up with a Field Training Officer learning his or her new patrol area.
135th BASIC GRADUATING CLASS
Name – Hometown – Assignment
- Alijia Danielle Monet Annon – Henrico – Henrico
- Justin Aaron Armes – Stuart – Henrico
- Zachary Cole Bailey – Ewing – Fluvanna
- Stone Lee Baker – Boykins – Surry
- Kennedy Jerome Barbour, Jr. – Williamsburg – James City
- Jonathan Y. Bazil – Lynchburg – Charles City
- Lucas Jeffrey Beall – Accomack – Accomack
- William Brady Blankenship – Powhatan – Culpeper
- Johnathon Daniel Blitz – Richmond – Henrico
- Michelle Lynn Carney – Roanoke – Culpeper
- Christopher John Caudill – Old Bridge – Prince William
- Mark Wade Chamberlain – Mount Airy – Hanover / Henrico
- Jeffrey Michael Dense – Alpine, New York – Fairfax
- Austin Lee Edwards – Pounding Mill – Henrico
- Robert Lane Faulkenberry – Lane, Oklahoma – Dinwiddie
- Dimitrice John Finley – Chesapeake – Springfield
- Justin Carl Grable – Louisa – Clarke
- Nathanael Scott Hall – Forest – Dinwiddie
- Sarah Francis Halperin – Hardwick, Vermont – Norfolk / Virginia Beach
- Jonathan Wesley Hawk – Emporia – Sussex
- Nicholas H. Henderson – Cape May, New Jersey – Prince William
- Logan Allan Hinnant – Fredericksburg – Prince William
- Nicole Noelle Hobbs – Hiltons – Frederick
- Emma Clare Hodge – Powhatan – Norfolk / Virginia Beach
- Alex Jamal Holley – Newport News – Springfield
- Matthew Samuel Honey – Fairfax – Springfield
- Luke J. Horvath – Schenectady, New York – Campbell
- Logan James Houston – Quinton – Mathews
- Steven Rex Huffman – Louisa – Hanover / Henrico
- Brian D. Hurlimann – Rochester, New York – Stafford
- Kenneth Ray Jamison – Danville – Bedford
- Scott Andrew Jeltema – Bitburg, Germany – Springfield
- Jeffrey Scott Keeney – Virginia Beach – Norfolk / Virginia Beach
- Corey James Klak – Chesapeake – Norfolk / Virginia Beach
- Alexis Mykayla Kovach – Chesterfield – Henrico
- Sean Michael Laychak – Springfield – Prince William
- Kortney M. Leazer – Remington – Bedford
- Joo No Lee – Plainview, New York – Springfield
- Griffin Downey Martin – Bracey – Cumberland
- Kortney Evan Terrell McGhee – New York, New York – Highland
- Michael Ryan Middleton – Ashburn – Fairfax
- Chance Allen Morris – Powhatan – Springfield
- Robert Dale Morris – La Crosse – Henrico
- Samuel Patrick Norris – Pulaski – Roanoke
- Alex Hoon Pak – Fairfax – Fairfax
- James Robert Davis Pettry – Big Stone Gap – Bedford
- Andrew Schuyler Poff – Shawsville – Botetourt
- Justin Alexander Ratowski – Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania – Prince William
- Joshua Tyler Stahl – Toronto, Ohio – Hanover / Henrico
- Malik Rashad Staton – Clinton, Maryland – Prince William
- George Pendleton Stephenson, Jr. – Seaford – Hanover / Henrico
- Eli Steven Thies – Harrisonburg – Henrico
- Gungaajargal Turek – Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – James City
- Daniel Ryan Urban – Yorktown – Cumberland
- Eric Grant Vitatoe – Haysi – Gloucester
- Alexander B. Wallace – Staunton – Orange
- Matthew Dennis Weinholtz – Buffalo, New York – Fairfax
- Daniel Andrew Wood – Powhatan – Hanover / Henrico