Story at a glance

  • Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed a bill forbidding legal defense teams from justifying violence due to the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • The legislation stands in contrast to more restrictive bills passed by other Republican governors aimed at the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Sexual identity is the third leading cause of hate crimes in the U.S., according to the American Bar Association.

On Wednesday, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) signed a slew of new bills into law, with one in particular marking a major victory for the state’s LGBTQ+ community.

Scott ratified House Bill 128, which prohibits the usage of a victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation as justification for the criminal actions of a defendant.

This legal strategy, commonly known as the “gay panic defense,” has been used in legal cases to justify criminal actions against an individual based on their sexual preference or gender identity. The tactic is largely seen as discriminatory against LGBTQ+ victims of hate crimes and perpetuating homophobia. 

Statistics from the American Bar Association (ABA) show that sexual orientation is one of the more prominent reasons that motivate hate crimes, just behind race and religion.

“What this bill does is make sure a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity can’t be used to defend or justify a criminal act, or to lower a sentence,” Scott said in remarks on the bill’s ratification. 


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The Republican governor signed this legislation as many leaders within his party have been considering and ratifying a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, including Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, who recently signed several bills targeting the transgender community into law. 

One specifically prohibits trans women from participating on girls’ sports teams and another permits parents to exclude their children from school sex education curriculums that specifically focus on gender identity. 

Other states with Republican leadership, such as Florida, have sent similar bills to the desks of governors for potential ratification. 

Scott briefly addressed the partisan nature of this bill.

“With this legislation, Republicans, Democrats and Progressives alike sent a message to Vermonters, that your identity should never be an excuse for someone to cause you harm,” he said. “While this effort is a step in the right direction, we know there is still more work to do to ensure all Vermonters, regardless of identity, feel safe and protected in our state. I look forward to continuing our work together in the future.”

Published on May 06, 2021