New York Bans ‘Gay Panic’ Defense

New York Bans ‘Gay Panic’ Defense June 20, 2019

In many cases where an LGBT person has been killed, defense attorneys have tried to claim that their client panicked because they thought that person was trying to pick them, or turn them gay (because apparently “no” doesn’t work?). The state of New York just passed a law that bans the use of that defense. It should be replicated at the national level.

Attribution: Benson Kua

The legal strategy, known as the “gay panic” or “transgender panic” defenses, was not always effective, and as attitudes toward L.G.B.T. people shifted, it was used less often. But it has still been deployed in recent years by lawyers hoping to win a jury’s sympathy, lessen a defendant’s charges or shorten a sentence.

On Wednesday, New York became the seventh State Legislature to approve a ban on such defenses.

The measure’s passage came amid a growing national push to bar the defenses, which gay and transgender rights activists say codify discriminatory attitudes into the legal system. Lawmakers in three other states approved similar bans this year.

Let’s do this at a national level. House Democrats should immediately pass a bill to do so and let’s see how many Republicans vote against it, whether the Senate will vote for it (or McConnell would even allow a vote on it), and/or whether Trump would veto it. Make them own their bigotry. This whole defense is predicated on fragile masculinity and only works due to anti-gay bias.

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