RACINE — State Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, has authored and co-sponsored several bills since entering the Legislature, but she said few have been as personal as LRB 2490.
That bill, if enacted into law, would ban the use of “gay panic” or “trans panic” as a defense in court if someone is accused of assaulting someone else based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
If the bill is passed, Neubauer said defendants cannot assert adequate provocation or self-defense if the criminal act they committed resulted from the discovery of, knowledge of, or potential disclosure of the victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
At a press conference on Monday at the LGBT Center of SE (southeast) Wisconsin, 1456 Junction Ave., Neubauer told the story of her sister Sam, who is transgender.
“She and all of us deserve to live in a world that allow everyone to be themselves,” Neubauer said, holding back tears. “A flag over the Capitol or bill introductions may seem small to some, but it’s not small to those who have been waiting their entire lives to be fully themselves. Each action matters and they build on one another.”
June is Pride Month. Gov. Tony Evers has ordered the rainbow flag, which symbolizes gay pride, to fly above the Capitol and a number of bills have been, or are planned to be, introduced regarding the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
“My sister didn’t come out and begin transitioning until she was out of Racine and I think that we have a responsibility,” Neubauer said. “We see people often leaving smaller communities like Racine because they’re not getting the support and resources that they need and move to other places. And I want Racine and Wisconsin to be a place that feels welcoming to everyone, including my family.”
Neubauer is gathering co-sponsors for her bill, which would eventually go through the Legislature’s committee process.
Neubauer said the “gay panic” defense is not used regularly but has been used in Wisconsin.
‘Second class citizen’
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Carl Hubbard, board president of the LGBT Center of SE Wisconsin, said members of the LGBT community are assaulted and sometimes killed — especially those of color — because of their orientation or gender identity.
“We can’t do anything to bring these people’s lives back, but legislation like a gay-panic defense ban will ensure that their memory is not further denigrated in a courtroom where they’re characterized as sexual predators, and people who are preying on innocent people,” Hubbard said. “Perpetrators of anti-LGBTQ violence often claim that their victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity not only explains, but excuses, their loss of self-control and subsequent assault.
“This defense tactic implies that LGBTQ lives are worth less than other lives and that somebody else’s discomfort with who we are as LGBTQ human beings is somehow more important than our survival.”
Racine resident Rae Antczak, who identifies as a trans male, said this legislation can offer members of the LGBT community and their families some piece of mind.
“It’s sometimes hard to have empathy for people in an abstract sense,” Antczak said. “While it’s true that we have made some progress (for LGBT rights) … my family members, as things stand right now, have to have that fear of if something were to happen to me, that my murderer might walk free just because I’m trans.”
Antczak said the proposed legislation is “fundamental” and “it is a shame that this hasn’t happened already; this seems to be such a common-sense piece of legislation.”
“No one’s murderer should walk free just because of their victim’s identity,” Antczak said. “The way that the laws are set up now — saying that me, that simply being who I am, is provocation enough to justify murder — makes me feel like a second-class citizen.”
If this bill is passed, Barb Farrar, executive director of the LGBT Center of SE Wisconsin said it would bring “the LGBTQ perspective when somebody is being prosecuted.”
“A lot of times, we don’t see hate crimes documented for a variety of reasons, and this would enable that type of documentation to move forward, so we have better data and numbers about how LGBT people are treated,” Farrar said.
“A flag over the Capitol or bill introductions may seem small to some, but it’s not small to those who have been waiting their entire lives to be fully themselves. Each action matters and they build on one another.” State Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine