Ban of LGBTQ panic defense passes in Virginia
Virginia lawmakers have approved a bill that would ban the so-called LGBTQ panic defense, following 11 states and the District of Columbia that have already banned this defense.
The LGBT Bar has defined this type of defense as “a legal strategy which asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction, including murder.”
The “LGBTQ panic defense” is also called the “gay/trans panic defense” but the LGBT Bar recognizes that the former impacts all folks in the LGBTQ community.
No more LGBTQ panic defense in Virginia
House Bill 2132, which was sponsored by Delegate Danica Roem (D-Manassas), was approved with an amendment by the Virginia Senate with a 23-15 vote.
Meanwhile, the Senate version of the bill with the amendment, which went to the House of Delegates for consideration, was approved with a 58-39 vote.
“It’s done: We’re banning the gay/trans panic defense in Virginia,” Roem tweeted.
In an earlier tweet, Roem recognized Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, by saying: “my heart’s with @WyoJudyShepard & @MattShepardFDN. Thank you so, so much.”
Matthew was a gay college student who was murdered in Wyoming in 1998 by two men who used this defense to excuse their actions.
While this action generated widespread public protest, the defense is still being used in courts as of present.
The bill is now up for the signature of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.
Preventing the use of the LGBTQ panic defense
As Virginia follows in the steps of the other states in banning the LGBTQ panic defense, thirteen other states— as well as Congress– are following suit with similar measures.
The Gay and Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act of 2018 was first introduced by Senator Markey (D-MA) in July 2018 in Senate and by Congressman Kennedy (D-MA) in the House of Representatives.
This bill was later reintroduced in the House and the Senate in June of 2019.
W. Carsten Andresen, a criminal justice scholar building a database of murder cases that use this defense, cited the 2015 case of Daniel Spencer, a guitarist who was killed by James Miller, as example to The Conversation.
Andresen said that while there was “no physical evidence to suggest an attempted sexual assault,” the defense attorney argued that the reason for the murder was that “Spencer had tried to sexually assault him.”
“In this instance, the gay panic defense was successful. The jury convicted Miller of criminally negligent homicide, the lowest grade of felony in Texas,” he added.