Legislators Go After the “Gay or Trans Panic” Defense In Criminal Law
It would likely surprise you to find out that in all but three states, it is legal for criminal defendants to claim that they should not be held accountable for murder due to the gender identity or sexual orientation of their victims. The defense is known as the “gay or trans panic defense,” and it is technically legal everywhere except for California, Illinois, and Rhode Island.
However, federal legislation recently introduced could ban the practice nationwide in all federal courts. The Gay and Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act would prohibit using nonviolent sexual advances, beliefs, or perceptions based on gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation of someone else as an excuse to justify or mitigate one’s conduct in committing an offense. Legislators in DC cannot change state criminal laws, but are hoping that they can eliminate the possibility of using the defense in federal court, as well as provide federal legislation that can serve as a model for subsequent state laws.
Violence against Transgender Individuals in Florida
The defense is linked to a notorious 1954 case here in Florida, where two criminal defendants had their first-degree murder charges downgraded to manslaughter convictions after claiming that the victim was shot because he made “unwanted sexual advances.”
Sadly, this is still happening today: A number of transgender people were killed in the U.S. last year, and one man who fatally beat a transgender woman had his prison sentence commuted to 12 years for manslaughter after claiming that he went into a “blind fury” upon finding out that his victim was transgender. Jacksonville, Florida in particular has seen its fair share of anti-transgender violence this summer, although no one has been arrested or charged in connection with the many murders.
Already in 2018, there have been a recorded 14 murders linked to violence against transgender individuals, although it is important to note that it can also be difficult to figure out how many total deaths have gone unreported in recent years because transgender murder victims are often misgendered in police and media reports. This also spills out into police investigations, as victims are frequently referred to by the names they used before they transitioned, making it difficult to gather helpful information from the transgender victim’s network of friends.
Regardless, the violence committed against transgender individuals is consistent, and will likely remain that way until they are explicitly granted equal access to education, employment, healthcare, and public accommodations.
Florida Civil Rights Attorneys
If you live in Florida and your civil rights have been violated due to your gender identity or sexual orientation, contact our civil rights attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help.