Gay and Trans Panic Defense

Gay and Trans Panic DefenseThe LGBT Bar is proud to be leading the effort to ban gay and trans “panic” defenses across the country. In 2013, The American Bar Association unanimously approved a resolution – introduced by The Bar – calling for an end to these heinous defense arguments.

Gay and trans “panic” defense tactics ask a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s excessively violent reaction. The perpetrator claims that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity not only explain – but excuse – their loss of self-control and subsequent assault of an LGBT individual. By fully or partially acquitting the perpetrators of crimes against LGBT victims, these defenses imply that LGBT lives are worth less than others.

In 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 21 year old college student, was beaten to death by two men. The men attempted to use the gay panic defense to excuse their actions. Despite widespread public protest, the defense is still being used today; most recently in connection with the February murder of Mississippi mayoral candidate Marco McMillian. McMillian was the state’s first openly gay candidate for office. Lawrence Reed, the man who admitted to killing McMillian, has made comments to the press indicating that he might use the gay panic defense to mitigate the charges against him.

Following the ABA’s resolution, The LGBT Bar is working with concerned lawmakers at the state level to help ban the use of these tactics in courtrooms across the country.