Mass. Dems push bill to ban ‘gay panic’ and ‘trans panic’ legal defenses

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Two Democratic Massachusetts lawmakers are pressing for legislation that crack down on the use of so-called “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses in federal court. 

The Gay and Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act of 2018 was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Edward Markey and in the House by Rep. Joe Kennedy. 

The measure seeks to curtail the use of a controversial legal defense aimed at reducing penalties for people who claim that they committed violent crimes against gay or transgender people because the person’s sexuality or gender identity caused them to “panic.”

{mosads}”Sexual orientation or gender identity cannot ever excuse violence, and our courtrooms should not be used as chambers of hate,” Markey said in a statement. 

“Gay and trans panic legal defenses reflect an irrational fear and bigotry toward the LGBTQ community and corrode the legitimacy of federal prosecutions.”

Such defenses are already banned in California and Illinois, but can still technically be used in federal court.

In a statement to NBC News, Kennedy said that committing violent acts against people because of their gender identity or sexual orientation should never have been seen as a legal defense, but rather as 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,” he said. 

In the Senate, the measure has five cosponsors, not including Markey. It has 10 cosponsors in the House, not including Kennedy.

The defense was used in a 1998 murder by two Wyoming men, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney, who claimed they killed a 21-year-old gay college student because he had made a pass at them.

That defense was rejected, however, and Henderson and McKinney were handed life sentences.

Tags Edward Markey Edward Markey gay panic Joe Kennedy Joe Kennedy trans panic
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