The Gay Panic Defense, a pro-hate crime legal strategy against LGBTQ people, is being fought by Democratic lawmakers in Florida. Senator Lauren Booker and Representative Carlos Smith filed a defense against this strategy in the lodge and Senate September 28 to ban it during the next legislative session.
Defense is defined by the LGBTQ + bar as a legal strategy in which the sexual orientation or gender identity of a victim is to blame for the violence of the accused.
This strategy encourages homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, and Florida lawmakers should pass its ban.
While not a stand-alone criminal defense, it is used to support other defenses. When used in court, it essentially claims that the victim’s sexuality or gender is an excuse for violence against them, devaluing LGBTQ lives.
The gay panic defense is used in one of three ways to try to lighten a murder case into manslaughter or just manslaughter, according to the LGBTQ + Bar. This includes reduced ability defense, provocation, and self-defense.
This defense of reduced ability centers around the unfounded psychological term “gay panic disorder,” which refers to a person who is plunged into a temporary state of violence after a nervous breakdown after discovering someone’s sexual orientation or gender. .
This was refuted decades ago, however, in 1973 by the American Psychiatric Association and removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
The defense of provocation is invoked when the non-violent sexual advances are considered sufficiently provocative to justify murder when the victim making the advances is a person who identifies as LGBTQ. Self defense is also used in tandem with gay panic defense.
Both of these people despise LGBTQ people, wrongly claiming that they are more likely to make violent sexual advances than straight or cisgender people, and the accused was therefore in imminent danger.
The self-defense claim was recently used with success in a 2018 murder trial over the September 2015 murder of Daniel Spencer, who was stabbed to death by his neighbor, James Miller in Texas.
Miller claimed that Spencer made violent sexual advances towards him, which prompted Miller to kill him. Although he has no proof of this, his defense was found to be valid, resulting in a light sentence of 10 months probation and up to six months in prison.
There are 16 states that have already banned the use of gay panic defense, the most recent being Maryland on January 13. Florida could be the 17th state to join this movement.
Gay panic defense is based into bigotry, and allows perpetrators of hate crimes to avoid the appropriate consequences. If Florida lawmakers care about the safety of the LGBTQ community, they should ban this defense from being used in any court in Florida.