October 17, 2021 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Following Brutal Murder, Legislation Would Expand Hate Crime Definition

Following the murder of Blaze Bernstein, the gay University of Pennsylvania student from Orange County, the California state senator from his district has proposed legislation to increase the penalty for capital crimes motivated by gender or sexual orientation.

As it stands now, murdering someone because of their gender or sexual orientation does not carry additional penalties. This did not sit right with State Senator Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove.)

“This means that under current law, committing a crime against someone who is gay could be called a hate crime, which carries its own lower penalties, but murdering someone specifically because they are gay does not constitute a special circumstance, thus eliminating a more just punishment,” Nguyen said to the Los Angeles Times.

Spurred by Bernstein’s murder, which was reportedly motivated by his sexuality, Nguyen has drafted Senate Bill 971, which would expand the sentencing enhancements for murder convictions to include gender and sexual orientation.

“Details of this case have come to light that have further underscored the senselessness of this act, as it has not been ruled out that Blaze’s sexual orientation could have been the reason for his murder,” Nguyen said. “This is a sad and heartbreaking prospect for all.”

Currently, someone convicted of murder faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison. But if prosecutors file special-circumstance allegations, convicted murderers can face life without parole or the death penalty. But these special-circumstance allegations for hate crimes only include  “race, color, religion, nationality or country of origin”—not sexual orientation. If the bill passes, it would not impact Bernstein’s case.

Prosecutors have charged Samuel Lincoln Woodward, a 20-year-old high school classmate of Bernstein, with the murder. According to the case against him, investigators found DNA evidence at the crime scene that tied him to the killing. Bernstein’s body was found in Lake Forest Park last month with more than 20 stab wounds. Woodward has pled not guilty to the charges.

In an affidavit to authorities, Woodward claimed that he met Bernstein on the night of the murder to “catch up.” While the two sat in the car together, according to Woodward, Bernstein kissed him on the lips. Woodward claims that Bernstein left the car and walked into the park by himself.

According to news reports, Woodward is allegedly connected to a neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division, which espouses a neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, and anti-government ideology.  

Bernstein’s mother was heartened by news of the proposed legislation.

“Of course, we take comfort that should this bill pass, we will be one step closer to providing a safer California for LGBTQ members to live and thrive,” Jeanne Pepper Bernstein said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

But for her, the comfort comes too late.

“I am crying because there is nothing that can bring my son home to me,” she said. “There is nothing that can bring back any of the innocent beautiful souls that have been lost to us because of ignorance and hate.”

 

Related Posts

MS-13’s Stronghold On MacArthur Park And Transphobia

September 15, 2021

September 15, 2021

MS-13, a vicious street gang, continues its stronghold on MacArthur Park making it unsafe for many who visit but specifically...

Podcast Host Mat George Killed In Hit-And-Run

July 19, 2021

July 19, 2021

Mathew George, gay co-host of the podcast “She Rates Dogs”, has died at the age of 26 after a hit-and-run...

The LGBT Center Long Beach’s Response To George Floyd Trial

April 23, 2021

April 23, 2021

The LGBTQ Center Long Beach has released a statement in response to the verdict following the George Floyd trial.  On...

Edify TV: Helping Local Cultural, Religious and LGBTQ+ Centers

April 11, 2021

April 11, 2021

Westside cultural, religious and LGBTQ+ centers stand to benefit from a new fund the City of Los Angeles has created...

Long Beach Rainbow Lifeguard Tower Burned Down

March 25, 2021

March 25, 2021

Long Beach’s rainbow lifeguard tower, painted by lifeguards in June in honor of Pride month, was destroyed in a fire...

Candlelit Vigil Held For Rayanna Pardo

March 25, 2021

March 25, 2021

A candlelit vigil was held on March 20th for Rayanna Pardo, a trans woman of color who died three days...

Gaga Confirms She Will Pay Dog Walkers Medical Bills

March 4, 2021

March 4, 2021

Lady Gaga has confirmed that she will pay all of her dog walkers medical bills which amount to almost $100,000. ...

Lady Gaga’s Dog Walker Shot And Her Dogs Stolen

February 25, 2021

February 25, 2021

Ryan Fischer, Lady Gaga’s dog walker, was the victim of a brutal robbery in West Hollywood Wednesday night.  30 year...

L.A. Queer Woman Being Deported From Bali

January 24, 2021

January 24, 2021

Former Los Angeles resident and graphic designer Kristen Antoinette Gray is being deported from Bali over her viral tweets that...

FBI Investigating Blast At Anti-Gay Church

January 23, 2021

January 23, 2021

An El Monte church that had been threatened this month with an arson attack over its condemnation of same-sex marriages...

Gay Man From Huntington Beach Stormed Capitol Now “In Fear Of His Life”

January 21, 2021

January 21, 2021

32-year-old Kristopher Dreww a gay hairdresser from Huntington Beach was one of many who rioted the Capitol Building on Jan....

Laverne Cox Gives Details On Transphobic Attack

December 3, 2020

December 3, 2020

Trans Actress Laverne Cox star of the Netflix series “Orange Is The New Black” took to social media to detail...

United Against Hate

November 25, 2020

November 25, 2020

From Nov. 30th – Dec. 6th, Los Angeles County will participate in its inaugural “United Against Hate Week.” The week-long...

Transgender Day Of Remembrance

November 16, 2020

November 16, 2020

The International Transgender Day Of Remembrance will be held on Nov. 20th, 2020. Trans Day Of Remembrance (TDoR) is a...

Hate Crime In MacArthur Park

October 7, 2020

October 7, 2020

Another transgender woman of color was brutally attacked in MacArthur Park in Los Angeles’ Westlake neighborhood on Sunday night after...