Region & State

Bill to prohibit LGBTQ “panic defense” tabled in Arkansas Senate committee

By TESS VRBIN | Arkansas Advocate

A bill expanding Arkansas school employees’ right to defend themselves in physical altercations passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, while another bill aimed at protecting LGBTQ Arkansans from violence was tabled.

Senate Minority Whip Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock) said her background as a schoolteacher informed her introduction of both bills.

Chesterfield introduced Senate Bill 60 during the first week of the legislative session but waited to bring it before the committee until she knew there would be public testimony, she said.

Senate Bill 60 would outlaw the use of “panic” regarding a victim’s sex, gender or sexual orientation as justification for violence against them. The “panic defense” has been banned in 13 states as of 2022.

Committee chair Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch) said he wasn’t certain the word “panic” was appropriate to describe the issue at hand. Chesterfield disagreed and mentioned some of her former students.

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