Ban The Gay/Trans Panic Defense

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The Gay/Trans Panic Defense is a legal defense that may be used by defendants charged with assault and murder under the guise of temporary insanity based on their victims sexual orientation or gender identity. This defense essentially legitimizes violence perpetrated against an individual based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Such a defense is used with the aim of lessening either the charge or the penalty for the crime committed. Currently, defendants in 49 out of the 50 states can legally use a gay panic defense to justify why they murdered or assaulted an LGBT person. As of 2014, California is the only state in the United States that does not allow the gay panic defense in court.

Jorge Steven Lopez-Mercado, age 19, was decapitated, dismembered and burned for being openly gay, but according to the police investigator on the case, “people who live this lifestyle need to be aware that this will happen.” When Matthew Shepard, age 21, made a pass at two men in a gay bar, he should have expected to be beaten, pistol-whipped, tied to a fence, and left to die. When Emile Bernard was stabbed, beaten and blinded after coming on to a hitchhiker, his assailant claimed he could not be guilty since the victim “was asking for trouble” by making sexual advances. If Angie Zapata, age 18, hadn’t initially “hidden” that she had male anatomy, her attacker would never have bludgeoned her to death with a fire extinguisher. And when a fellow student shot Larry King, age 15, execution-style in front of their teacher and classmates, his actions were understandable because Larry wore dresses and heels, and said “Love you, baby!” to him the day before. These are actual defenses, offered by real defendants, in United States courts of law that have succeeded in mitigating or excusing real crimes, even today (American Bar Association,2013, p.2).

The allowance of the gay/trans panic defense in U.S. courtrooms promotes violence against persons in the LGBT community and perpetuates the false assumption that people who are gay are sexual predators who cannot control their sexual desires. This defense is unconstitutional as it violates one’s fundamental right to equal protection under the law. Furthermore, the use of such a defense in the U.S. undermines United State’s legitimacy in influencing human rights policies abroad, in countries where someone can be imprisoned for their sexual orientation.

Put a stop to the use of this reprehensible defense in courtrooms across the United States and sign the petition today to ban the use of the gay/trans panic defense in courtrooms nationwide.



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