Harrisburg – July 18, 2018 — Assailants charged with murder against LGBTQ individuals would be prohibited from using “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses to avoid conviction or mitigate punishment, if legislation authored by state Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) is approved.

“It is unconscionable that Pennsylvania permits the use of gay and trans panic defenses in murder cases involving LGBTQ individuals,” Farnese said.  “These are hate crimes and defendants should not be able to employ gay or trans panic as a justification for criminal activity.”

Gay and trans defense involves placing the blame for homicide on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender, according to a report from The Williams Institute, a UCLA School of Law think tank.

“There is simply no justification for allowing a defendant to blame an individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender for a lethal attack,” Farnese said.

Farnese said that hate crimes are on the rise.  According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), 2017 was one of the worst years for crimes against members of the LGBTQ community.

NCAVP found that as of August 2017, 36 hate violence related homicides of LGBTQ and HIV affected people had been reported.  This represents an increase of 29 percent from 2016.

The senator said the American Bar Association adopted a resolution in 2013 urging legislative action against defenses that seek to blame the victim to avoid conviction or mitigate long prison sentences.  According to The Williams Institute, gay and trans panic defenses have been used and cited in court opinions in many states, including Pennsylvania, since the 1960s.

Farnese said that there has been movement on banning the defense.  Illinois recently adopted a statute banning the defense and federal legislation has been introduced.  California and Rhode Island also prohibit its use.

In Pennsylvania, legislation was introduced in the 2015-2016 session in the state House banning the defense’s use in homicide cases.