Using the defence is already banned in California, Illinois and Rhode Island.
Democrats have introduced new legislation which seeks to ban the use of the ‘gay and trans panic’ defence across America. The defence, which is mostly used in assault or murder cases, allows people to defend themselves by blaming the victim’s sexual orientation or their gender identity as the reason for the attack.
Although the defence isn’t usually successfully deployed, in April, James Miller from Austin, Texas managed to avoid a jail sentence when he cited it as the reason that he killed Daniel Spencer.
The legislation, called the Gay and Trans Panic Defence Prohibition Act of 2018, will amend title 18 of the United States code, and was introduced by Senator Edward J. Markey and Congressman Joseph Kennedy III. Co-sponsors of the bill include Senators Kamala Harris and Tammy Baldwin as well as Hillary Clinton’s running mate in the 2016 presidential election, Senator Tim Kaine.
On the law, Kennedy said: “Murdering or assaulting anyone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is not a defence, it is a hate crime.
“Legal loopholes written into our laws that seek to justify violent attacks against our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender neighbors should never have existed in the first place.
“I am proud to introduce this legislation with Senator Edward Markey and believe that our colleagues will echo our urgency in ensuring hate does not live in our courtrooms.”
The legislation, which can be read in full here, set out several reasons on why the defence should be banned. These include how the American Bar Association has urged the U.S. government in the past to outlaw the defence, mainly because of how the “widespread public antipathy was the norm” at the time it was originally introduced and is no longer relevant today.
It also includes how the law currently accepts that sexuality or gender identity is a “reasonable excuse” for a loss of self-control, and how it appeals to “‘irrational fears and hatred of LGBT individuals” as well as undermining protection for victims in bias-motivated crimes and reinforcing prejudice at the “expense of norms of self-control.”
And finally, by adopting the law it will 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.”