The End of 'Gay Panic?'

8.13.2013

By Andrew Belonsky

American Bar Association passes resolution asking lawmakers to reject homophobic defense.

The American Bar Association passed a resolution yesterday asking lawmakers to restrict the so-called "gay panic" defense.

Based on discredited bunk "science," the loathsome "gay panic defense" is when someone accused of injuring or killing an LGBT person claims temporary insanity caused a violent panic. It was used by the two men who killed actor Ramon Novarro in 1968. It was used by convicted killer Joseph Mitchell Parsons in 1987. It was again employed during the murder trial of the men who took Matthew Shepard's life in 1998. Those of you who remember 1995 will recall that Jonathan Schmitz said friend Scott Amedure's romantic overtures on The Jenny Jones Show caused him to kill the 32-year old. And gay panic was also used and failed in Michigan's more recent case against Steven Scarborough, a man convicted of murdering 62-year-old Victor Manious.

Basically, gay panic has a long and ignoble history, but now such arguments could become a thing of the past, or at least be reduced. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the ABA is now formally asking local and federal politicos to take a stand against the hateful strategy: "[The resolution] asks legislators to adopt California-style jury instructions - telling jurors not to be influenced by the sexual orientation or gender identity of either the victim or the defendant - or to go further and ban the defense in noncapital homicide cases."

D'arcy Kemnitz from the National LGBT Bar Association told the Chronicle the resolution makes clear that there is "no validity in these sham defenses mounted by those who seek to perpetuate discrimination and stereotypes as an excuse for violence."

Will this end "gay panic" defenses? Only among lawyers with a reliable moral compass, so...

(Image via Visible Friends.)

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