Legislation tabled for the Florida legislative session that opens in January would ban the use of the defense of “gay panic” – arguments before a judge or jury that the sexual orientation or gender identity of a victim frightened the abuser so much that the assault was reasonable.
The House godfather – Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orange County – was himself gay while a student at the University of Central Florida, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel.
“As a survivor of hate violence, I understand how the gay or trans ‘panic defense’ can be used as a legal strategy to justify or excuse violence against the LGBTQ community,” Smith said in a written statement Wednesday.
“It happened to me. Continued use of the panic defense in court proceedings perpetuates anti-LGBTQ biases and places responsibility on victims of violent crime rather than perpetrators, which is why Florida must follow the lead of several states. who have passed laws prohibiting its use in court.
The Senate godfather is Broward County Democrat Lauren Book, leader of her party in the upper house.
“It is discriminatory and unacceptable that LGBTQIA + people are held responsible for their own assaults or even their murders on the basis that they are simply themselves,” she said in her own statement.
“The current state of the law that allows someone to assault another person simply on the basis of their sex or gender identity cannot stand – using a ‘panic’ defense is essentially gymnastics legal defense to defend a hate crime. “
The Prohibition of Gay and Transgender Legal Panic Defenses Bill is now pending in both houses under the names SB 374 and HB 205.
“The legislature finds that legal defenses linked to gay and transgender panic, which continue to be invoked in criminal proceedings, qualify sexual orientation and gender expression or gender identity as objectively excuses.” reasonable for loss of self-control, and thus illegitimately attempt to mitigate the responsibility of an abuser for harm caused to a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person, ”says the law.
“A non-violent sexual advance or the perception or belief, however inaccurate, of an individual’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression cannot be used as a defense. against a criminal offense, to excuse or justify the conduct of an individual who commits a criminal offense, or to lessen the seriousness of a criminal offense in sentencing, ”he said.
The sponsors noted that the American Bar Association called on states to eliminate defense in 2013, but only 17 did.
An analysis of 104 cases nationwide showed that the defense reduced charges of murdering an accused in 32% of cases, resulting in lighter sentences. Florida had five reported cases in 2020.
Defendants generally claim temporary insanity or reduced mental capacity; that they had been the subject of provocative advances; or self-defense, according to a group of lawyers, LGBTQ + Bar,
This is the second year in which Book has proposed legislation. Also last year, Book sponsored a resolution to apologize for the excesses of the Johns Committee, created to investigate the NAACP, but which then extended to harassment of LGBT faculty, students and political dissidents.