A standard ploy for sleazy defense attorneys with clients who bash gays is to claim the victim triggered the attack by making a pass at the murderer (or perhaps just a simple assaulter). But the days of the gay panic defense may be numbered. The American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section is taking up a proposal that would no longer allow defense attorneys to use victims’ sexual orientation or identity against them in court.
The gay panic defense has been used in many gay-bashing cases, including such high-profile ones as the Matthew Shepard murder. In essence, the defense argues that the defendant had the right to flip out and beat someone to a bloody pulp because he was afraid that the victim was coming onto him. (If this was a legitimate reason for killing someone, thousands of heterosexual men would be meeting their demise at the hands of women they hit on.)
“This resolution puts an end to a longstanding injustice in our legal system and gives a voice to countless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims of violence, one we never hear because they are no longer here to speak for themselves,” said D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association. The proposal goes before the full ABA house of delegates for a vote in August.