Sacramento, Ca. -- Today Democrats on the Senate Public Safety Committee opposed Senate Bill 971 by Senator Janet Nguyen (R-Orange County) that would have added protections for members of the LBGTQ who are murdered because of their gender and sexual orientation.
Existing law provides the death penalty special enhancement is available if the murdered victim is found to be intentionally killed because of his or her race, color, religion, nationality or country of origin.
Senate Bill 971 would have added the special circumstance enhancement for victims who are killed because of his or her sexual orientation or gender.
Both Republicans on the committee voted in favor of the bill, while the five democrats voted not to support this additional protection for members of the LGBTQ community.
“The hypocrisy on display this morning during this hearing was appalling,” said Senator Stone. “I was proud to stand with my fellow Republican on the committee to support this enhancement for hate crimes against the LGBTQ community. Meanwhile, those who claim to support the LBGTQ community failed to support this additional protection.”
The bill was prompted by the murder of Blaze Bernstein, a 19-year-old college student from Orange County, who was stabbed more than 20 times and buried in a shallow grave in a park in Lake Forest in January.
A 20-year-old Newport Beach man has been charged with the murder. Law enforcement officials have said they believe the murder may have been a hate crime against Bernstein -- who was gay -- based on anti-gay statements made by the man who was arrested.
However, when the Orange County District Attorney’s office sought to bring charges against the suspect, they discovered a loophole in the law did not offer the death penalty special enhancement for crimes against LGBTQ individuals as it does for those killed because of race, religion, color and several other categories.
Senator Nguyen’s bill sought only to close that loophole.
“Criminal acts against the LBGTQ community should be treated the same as any other hate crime,” concluded Senator Stone.
Watch the video of Senator Stone speaking at the hearing here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGbDM52TneQ&t=9s