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In 48 states, being scared of LGBTI people is still an acceptable murder defense

In 48 states, being scared of LGBTI people is still an acceptable murder defense

Back in 2013, The American Bar Association (ABA) released a resolution, calling for all states to ban ‘gay panic’ or ‘trans panic’ defenses in cases of murder and assault.

‘The American Bar Association urges federal, tribal, state, local and territorial governments to take legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of the “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses, which seek to partially or completely excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction,’ their statement read.

They argue that these ‘panic defenses’ have no basis in medicine or psychology. In fact, ‘homosexual panic disorder,’ introduced in 1920 by psychiatrist Edward J. Kempf, is no longer recognizes as a legitimate affliction by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

However, only two states – California and Illinois – have successfully passed bills banning this type of defense. That means, in 48 states, claiming one was ‘freaked out’ by someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation is still a valid excuse for violent crimes against LGBTI people.

‘Gay and trans panic defenses are used with much more frequency than most people think,’ said D’Arcy Kemnitz, Executive Director of the National LGBT Bar Association.

What’s going on?

Many other states have tried to pass similar bills, only to be held up by the workings of bureaucracy.

For instance, in 2015 both Pennsylvania and New Jersey attempted to pass bills banning the defense, only to have them struck down or put on the backburner by the states’ committees.

‘How in God’s name could [panic defenses] be real in the 21st century?’ said Pennsylvania state representative Michael Schlossberg.

In Washington D.C., a recently introduced bill known as the ‘Secure a Fair and Equitable Trial Act of 2017’ attempts to put limits on how these so-called ‘panic’ defenses can be used. Yet, the bill is still under review and it could be a while before it makes it into law.

‘At this point, it’s just bureaucracy and time that’s the opposition to legislation like this,’ said D.C. councilmember David Grosso on this issue.

‘I believe that everybody’s human rights should be protected,’ Grosso stated. ‘A person just being who they are causes them to be beaten up? That shouldn’t be used in any sense, in any way, as a defense.’