It’s 2019, it’s not okay to use “gay panic” as a criminal defense

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On June 19, it was announced that New York became the sixth state to outlaw a criminal defense noted as “gay and trans panic defense.”

This bill will now prevent people who are charged with homicide to justify the murder based on the discovery of the victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

With the fiftieth anniversary of the stonewall uprising, an event that triggered the start of the gay liberation movement, as well as  pride month, and the rise of hate crimes that are occurring against LGBTQ+ people, it is very important and even more meaningful that this bill is coming into place. 

But it now this comes into question, why is New York only the sixth state to outlaw this defense? 

This defense first gained traction with the murder of Matthew Shepard. 

Shepard was student in Wyoming in 1988, who was brutally beaten by two men which lead to his death. The two men used “gay panic” as their defense.

This defense is not something that can be used alone in a court case, but is normally attached to three different defense mechanisms, that of insanity or diminished capability, provocation, and self-defence. 

While, many people think that this defense is not something that could be used today, that is very wrong. 

The defense was used in New York as recently as 2016, and in 2018 by a former police officer, who stabbed a man and claimed that he had “gay panic” after being hit on by a man.

Also, this defense has been successful in acquitting dozens of murderers for the crimes that they have committed. 

If other states do not get on the same page as New York, California, Illinois, Nevada, Rhode Island and Connecticut, the States will never see equality as they claim to have it.

“As long as I, as a gay man, can be blamed for my own murder or assault, I personally will never have equality under the law,” Seth Rosen, director of development at the National LGBT Bar Association said. 

“Frankly, this victimizes all queer people. First, they have the assault against them, or the murder, and then, in court, they are blamed for the violence against them,” he said.

If I am honest, I wanted to be surprised that this defense is something that can still be used in the States, but I am not. 

In 2015, Mike Pence, the then Indiana governor and now Vice President signed a bill into law that allowed business owners to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers because of “religious freedom.”

Frankly, this victimizes all queer people. First, they have the assault against them, or the murder, and then, in court, they are blamed for the violence against them.

In May, Donald Trump, current US President passed a policy that would forbid military service by anyone who “requires gender transition.”

If the current presidential office holds values that are against a specific community, in this case the LGBTQ+ community, it is hard to see a way for equality to be there for everyone. 

New York signing this bill is an important step forward to making the world a more equal and safer place for all. But it can’t stop at that.

As allies of the community, we all have a duty to show our support outright, and not sit back and allow things like the “gay and trans defense” to happen. 

We need to stick up and speak for what we believe in, as now more than ever our voices matter. 

It’s sad to think that my mother’s best friend from college could be hurt and not get the justice he deserves if he was born in the country to our south. 

It’s scary to think that if my best friend got assaulted, that he could be victimized in more than one case, that of his death occurring, and that of being blamed for it. 

So, if you are a supporter of the community, more needs to be done than just supporting them in your private life. 

Go to pride and support them publicly, talk to people about the importance of their rights. 

We as human beings have the duty to love and help our people, regardless of how they categorize themselves. 

Don’t stand idly by and watch the world be a hateful place. 

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