The American Bar Association (ABA) formally voted on Monday, Aug. 12, to curtail to use of "gay panic" and "trans panic" defense arguments during prosecutions. The resolution aims to encourage state and local governments to pass legislation that bars these defense strategies to be considered viable in a court of law.
An official statement from the ABA reads:
"...the American Bar Association urges federal, state, local and territorial governments to take legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of the 'gay panic' and 'trans panic' defenses, which seek to partially or completely excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction."
The debate surrounding the validity of the "gay panic" or "trans panic" defense came to light in California in 2002 following the murder of Gwen Araujo, a transgender teen brutally killed after her assailants learned of her gender identity. The L.A. Times notes that, "legislators responded by passing a law designed to blunt the use of panic defenses," though similar panic strategies have still been used in 45 cases nationwide since that time.
They gay panic defense also came to light as recently as February of this year in the trial of Lawrence Reed for the murder of mayoral candidate Macro McMillian.
One of the most infamous instances where a defense attorneys attempted to utilize a "gay panic" defense was the murder of Matthew Shepard.
The passing of this resolution by the American Bar Association in no way entitles or bestows special rights or privileges onto LGBT victims. Rather, it solidifies that their identity as LGBT individuals can never be be used as the partial or full justification for the crime committed against them.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly abbreviated the name of the American Bar Association. It is the ABA.
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