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The EditorsSeptember 07, 2018
Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash

“Gay panic,” or perceiving an unwanted sexual overture from someone of the same sex or from a transgender person, has been used as a criminal defense for acts of violence going back to at least the 1950s in the United States. While it rarely results in acquittal, it may be a factor in many relatively light sentences given to those convicted of killing L.G.B.T. people, such as the 12-year manslaughter sentence given to a New York man who beat a transgender woman to death in 2013.

Last month Senator Ed Markey and Representative Joe Kennedy III, both Democratic members of Congress from Massachusetts, introduced the Gay & Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act, which would prohibit the use of the gay panic defense in federal court (although it would permit the evidence of “prior trauma” to justify a defendant’s actions). “Legal loopholes written into our laws that seek to justify violent attacks against our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender neighbors should never have existed in the first place,” Representative Kennedy told The Washington Blade.

Prosecutions for such attacks are usually handled at the state level, but a federal law would send a strong message that fear of, or discomfort with, any group of people is not a license for violent behavior. Currently, the gay panic defense has been banned only by California, Rhode Island and Illinois, but we hope that other states follow their lead. Perhaps as significant, the federal bill would also require the U.S. attorney general to produce an annual report on prosecutions in federal court for crimes committed against L.G.B.T. people “that were motivated by the victim’s gender, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation.” This would be valuable information for determining the scope of anti-L.G.B.T. violence.

More: LGBT
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JR Cosgrove
5 years 8 months ago

What violence? Hardly seems prevalent.

A Fielder
5 years 8 months ago

Elaine, the alleged abuse by Reuter is about 30 years old. He has been removed from public ministry, admittedly quite after the fact. How exactly does that warrant suppression of the entire order? Do you ever have anything constructive to offer? And to answer your question about Catholicism, this is what the CCC states:

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

Peggy Ehling
5 years 8 months ago

It might be helpful to add that Christians would do well to strive not be one of the “difficulties they may encounter.”

Stanley Kopacz
5 years 8 months ago

Used to be, a man could get away with shooting a man dead if he caught him in bed with his wife. Also, if a black guy glanced at a good looking white woman, he could end up lynched.

Tim O'Leary
5 years 8 months ago

Is this analogous to a woman getting a lesser sentence after killing a man, when her defense was she feared an aggressive sexual advance might lead to rape? With the current #MeToo and McCarrick crises, it might be good if this legislation also included harsher punishments for aggressive sexual advances, of adults and minors.

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5 years 8 months ago

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