Earlier this year, the NH House of Representatives passed an amended version of HB 315, prohibiting provocations based on a victim’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation from being used as a defense in a criminal case. While the original text of this bill was framed as a prohibition against the so-called, “gay panic defense,” in reality, it would have promoted sexual harassment by removing any ability for a woman on trial for murder to claim that she acted in self-defense against unwanted romantic or sexual advances. Thankfully, the amended version of the bill remedied this while serving the bill’s stated purpose. However, this past week, the Senate amended and passed the original text of the bill, returning it to its pro-sexual harassment form. The bill will now return to the House to be voted on once again in its original form.
If this bill were truly about protecting homosexual men from hate crimes, then the bipartisan version passed by both the House Criminal Justice Committee and by voice vote in the NH House would have been acceptable, as it contains language prohibiting provocations based on sexual identity from being used as a defense in cases of manslaughter. However, the bill was amended to again contain language which protects and facilitates aggressive “sexual advances.” As a consequence those who would be most hurt if HB 315 passed in its present form would not be heterosexual men who killed homosexual men, as those pushing the bill would have you believe, but women who defended themselves from the predatory behavior of straight men. It is evident that the impetus behind the bill is to erode the safety and dignity of women, and to promote sexual harassment.
In light of this, Cornerstone strongly opposes HB 315 as amended by the Senate. Please call or email your representatives and urge them to vote against HB 315 as amended by the Senate.
Update as 0f 06/17/23:
This week, rather than register a final vote, the New Hampshire House voted to send HB 315 to a committee of conference, where it will be further deliberated. HB 315, the “gay panic” bill, in the version most recently passed by the Senate and presented to the House for this latest vote, would have put the safety of women throughout the state at risk.
While the original text of this bill was framed as a prohibition against the so-called, “gay panic defense,” in reality, it would have promoted sexual harassment by removing any ability for a woman on trial for murder to claim that she acted in self-defense against unwanted romantic or sexual advances.
Under the law today, a woman who defends herself from a sexual predator does not need to show that the man physically attacked her. She only needs to show that she reasonably feared imminent assault. But under the Senate-amended version of HB 315, a woman would be blocked from claiming self-defense if a man engaged in “unwanted nonforcible romantic or sexual advances.”
Earlier this year, the NH House of Representatives addressed the potential threat to women by passing their amended version of HB 315, which removed the language promoting sexual harassment. Cornerstone has no objection to this version. However, after passing the House, the bill was amended in the Senate to return it to its original, dangerous form. When the Senate-amended bill came before the House this week, rather than take a final vote, the House voted 199-175 to send the bill to a committee of conference to resolve the conflict between the two versions and determine the bill’s final form.
A committee of conference is composed of Senate and House members who consider certain referred bills that have different versions that need to be reconciled. Once convened, the committee attempts to come to consensus to recommend a final version for the House and Senate to vote on. If committee consensus cannot be reached, the bill fails.
Update as of 06/23/23:
Yesterday, the committee of conference on HB 315 met to reconcile the two versions of this bill. Unfortunately, while they did adopt some of the language from the House amendment, the final wording agreed on retains the deeply problematic sections of both the original and the Senate version of the bill. If passed, the committee of conference version of HB 315 would still provide protection to predatory males who sexually harass and threaten women.
If passed in its current form, a woman would cease to be able to cite unwanted sexual harassment as provocation were she to kill a man and be tried for murder, unless the man actually used physical force on her.
Given how clear we have been about the implications of this bill, it is shocking that this language continues to be included in HB 315. Were the bill to pass as worded, it would not make New Hampshire safer, as its proponents claim, but only serve to promote a culture of disrespect towards women and girls in our state.
Both the Senate and House are due to vote on this bill next Thursday, June 29. Please contact both your representatives and your senator and ask that they stand for the dignity and safety of New Hampshire women and vote no on the Committee of Conference version of HB 315.