DC Council - Take Action on Hate Crimes - Pass the Gay & Trans Panic Defense Bill

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The gay and trans “panic” defense is a legal strategy which asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction, including murder. It is not a free standing defense to criminal liability, but rather a legal tactic which is used to bolster other defenses. When the defense is employed, the perpetrator claims that their victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity not only explains – but excuses – their loss of self-control and subsequent assault. By fully or partially acquitting the perpetrators of crimes against LGBTQ+ victims, these defenses imply that LGBTQ+ lives are worth less than others.

One of the most recognized cases that employed the gay “panic” defense was that of Matthew Shepard. 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.

Here in the District of Columbia the gay "panic defense" was used in the case of Tony Hunter.   Tony was a black gay man murdered in 2008 outside of a gay club on 9th Street NW.  And the man who killed him was sentenced to a mere six months in jail.

This gay and trans panic defense bill would ban the use of this defense.  The bill was first introduced in 2017 (B22-0102 - Secure A Fair and Equitable Trial Act of 2017), but has failed to be voted on by the Council of the District of Columbia or even have a bill hearing.  Tell your councilmember to take action and support this legislation.  

For more information, visit the LGBT Bar Association: lgbtbar.org/programs/advocacy/gay-trans-panic-defense/

Please take action now and tell DC Council to pass this legislation.   This is just one piece of addressing hate crimes in DC and much work is needed.  Rest assured, this work will continue.