Two Democrats, Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) introduced the Gay and Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act of 2019 on Wednesday (5 June).
This is the politician’s second attempt at banning the use of gay and transgender panic defenses in the court system.
They introduced the same bill last year, but it never received a vote in the Senate or House. Consequently, it never had a chance to become law.
Markey and Kennedy are trying again with the same bill to amend title 18 of the United States Code.
In a tweet, Markey wrote: ‘So-called “gay and trans panic” defenses can excuse violent crimes by blaming a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity for a defendant’s attack.’
So-called “gay and trans panic” defenses can excuse violent crimes by blaming a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity for a defendant’s attack. @RepJoeKennedy and I have introduced legislation to ban the use of these hateful defenses in all federal courts. pic.twitter.com/kmyTu5CxvJ
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) June 5, 2019
The bill would ban the use of ‘these hateful defenses’ in federal courts nationwide.
Someone’s identity is not reason to attack them
As in the last iteration of this bill, the act states: ‘No nonviolent sexual advance or perception or belief, even if inaccurate, of the gender, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation of an individual may be used to excuse or justify the conduct of an individual or mitigate the severity of an offense.’
In the language of the bill, such defenses characterize LGBTI people’s identities as ‘objectively reasonable excuses for loss of self-control’. They also ‘appeal to irrational fears and hatred of LGBT individuals’.
Finally, the bill also demands the Attorney General submit an annual report to Congress about court cases involving crimes against LGBTI people where the motivation seemed to be the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Panic defense is an outdated notion
Markey and Kennedy, with the reintroduction of this bill, seek to ‘end the antiquated notion that LGBT lives are worth less than others and to reflect modern understanding of LGBT individuals as equal citizens under law’.
One of the most well-known cases of the gay panic defense was the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1988.
More recently, an Ohio man used the defense to try and get off death row — but the Ohio Parole Board stayed his execution date of 18 July.
A Texas man, meanwhile, was found not guilty of manslaughter and murder after using the defense.
Only four states have outright banned the defense, including California, Illinois, Rhode Island, and most recently, Nevada. This bill, however, would ban it across the country.
‘Gay and trans ‘panic’ defenses have long stood as a symbol of dangerous and outdated thinking,’ said D’Arcy Kemnitz, Executive Director of the National LGBT Bar Association. ‘The Gay and Trans ‘Panic’ Defense Prohibition Act would protect LGBTQ+ lives and send a clear message that hate has no place in the federal courtroom.’