We’ve heard it before, and we’ve shaken our collective heads that it can be used as a defense, but maybe now, with the help of Congressman Joseph Kennedy III and Senator Edward Markey, both Democrats, both from Massachusetts, the “Gay Panic Defense” might become a thing of the past.
Kennedy and Markey introduced new legislation this week—the Gay & Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act—that would ban the use of anti-LGBT panic defense from being cited as a legal defense in federal court for murdering someone, or bashing someone, or beating someone.
Kennedy said an admission of committing a violent crime against someone because they’re LGBT “is not a defense, it is a hate crime” and added:
“Legal loopholes written into our laws that seek to justify violent attacks against our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender neighbors should never have existed in the first place.”
Markey agrees, saying a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity “cannot ever excuse violence, and our courtrooms should not be used as chambers of hate”:
“Gay and trans panic legal defenses reflect an irrational fear and bigotry toward the LGBTQ community and corrode the legitimacy of federal prosecutions. These defenses must be prohibited to ensure that all Americans are treated with dignity and humanity in our justice system.”
The “fear” of having a gay man hit on you or finding that the person you’re in a relationship with, or even just casually dating, is transgender, have been used as defenses for murder for decades. The first, well-known case, was that of the two men that murdered Matthew Shepard and used “gay panic” as a defense.
And even in 2018, it goes on; earlier this year, a former police officer in Austin received a ridiculously light sentence for stabbing his neighbor to death by playing the “He hit on me” card.
Now, I ain’t holding my breath for this bill to go through, not with the virulently homophobic, transphobic Congress and White House, but, you know, if even of us—and by that, I mean all of us—vote blue in November, maybe we can get this thing done and never again have to hear someone say they murdered a man because he tried to kiss them; or murdered a person because they found out they were trans. That’s hate, plain and simple, and murder, plain and simple, and this excuse needs to be stopped.
And, while the Gay & Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act would ban the anti-LGBT panic defense in federal courts, it wouldn’t apply to charges brought in state courts.
And so that’s all the more reason to vote blue at the federal level, the state level, the country level and the city level, because we can never, never, count on the GOP or the Bastard-In-Chief to help our community.
We do it by electing those that will, and standing up for our rights, and marching for our rights, even after all these years.