Did You Know It’s Legal To Discriminate Against LGBT Jurors? (We Didn’t)

Most of us try as hard as we can to get out of serving jury duty, but that doesn’t make the fact that gays and lesbians can be excluded from a jury pool any less galling.

According to The American Independent, even though it’s illegal to boot a potential juror solely based on race or sex, only California and Oregon have rules prohibiting such decisions based on sexual orientation or gender presentation—and the U.S. Department of Justice says it “takes no position” on the matter.

Minnesota State Senator Scott Dibble (D-Minneapolis) is pushing for legislation to correct this inequity, stating that if  jurors can be dismissed for being gay, defendants “[may] not being judged by their peers.”

“This affects people’s lives,” Dibble told The American Independent. “LGBT people provide important perspectives in terms of jury duty. Being specifically excluded because of [sexual orientation] status flies in the face of the values that all Americans share,” he said.

As writer Andy Birkey reminds us, gays and lesbians were excluded from Dan White’s trial for the murders of Harvey Milk and  George Moscone, despite comprising anywhere from 15% to 20% of San Francisco’s population at the time.

Birkey goes through numerous cases where Lawyers, usually prosecutors, struck LGBT jurors from the pool because they perceive them to be more liberal or empathetic to defendants.

In 2000 a California prosecutor removed a trans juror, saying:

I believe that people who are either transsexuals or transvestites—I don’t know what the proper term is —traditionally are more liberal-minded thinking people, tend to associate more with the defendants because, obviously, they have been either ridiculed before or are feeling in a position of being in a microscope all the time and are outcasts which lends themselves to associating more with the defendant.

Well, there might be some validity to that assumption, but the entire jury system is predicated on the idea that everyday citizens can put aside their prejudices and preconceived notions and render an impartial judgement. Are LGBTs any less able to do that than anyone else?

As Phil Duran of Outfront Minnesota says,”Nobody should be allowed to hang a ‘no gays allowed’ sign on the jury room door.”