When someone murders an LGBTQ-identified person, the murderer can use the unofficial gay panic defense in court, basically saying that they flew into murderous insanity after a queer person hit on them. These defenses are bullshit and play on heterosexual juries’ biases viewing queer people as deceptive, deranged sexual predators. This week, two congressional Democrats submitted a bill for a nationwide gay panic ban, but its chances are slim.
Representative Joe Kennedy III and Senator Ed Markey, both of Massachusetts, introduced the Gay & Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act, legislation that would ban gay and queer panic defenses from being used in federal courtrooms nationwide. But state courts would remain able to use such defenses, and that’s a problem.
What a nationwide gay panic ban would do
According to the Judicial Learning Center, about 90% of all criminal cases are heard in state courts — that includes a recent Texas state murder case where a 69-year-old former policeman only got six months in prison and 10 year probation for murdering his 32-year-old neighbor because the neighbor allegedly came onto him.
Both the American Bar Association and the National LGBT Bar Association advocate banning of queer panic defenses nationwide. California and Illinois have already banned such defenses, and similar legislation is currently under consideration in New Jersey, New York, Washington, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.
These bans don’t prohibit queer panic defenses from being used in court. Rather, they require judges to read instructions telling jurors to “ignore bias, sympathy, prejudice or public opinion in making their decision.” The bans also educate district attorneys’ offices about queer panic strategies and how to prevent queerphobia from affecting trial outcomes.
Republicans won’t support a national gay panic ban
While Kennedy and Markey’s legislation is a step in the right direction, there’s no reason to expect Republican legislators to support it.
That’s because a gay panic ban would essentially go against Biblical teaching, specifically Leviticus 20:13, which states that people who sleep with members of the same sex are an abomination who should be put to death.
Approximately 81% of Christian evangelicals voted for Trump in the last election and only 36% if them believe homosexuality should be accepted by society, the second lowest rate of acceptance for gay people amongst any American religious group.
If Republicans support Kennedy and Markey’s bill, it’d basically contradict the beliefs of evangelical supporters, something won’t win the GOP their votes. It’d go against the GOP’s other numerous anti-LGBTQ policies under Trump.
So while America needs to ban gay panic defenses that essentially blame queer people for their own murders, as long as Republicans control any half of Congress, we shouldn’t expect a nationwide gay panic ban to become law.