Illinois Ends Use Of ‘Gay Panic’ Defense, LGBTQ Advocates Look At Texas, Other States To Follow

The year 2017 was the deadliest year on record for the LGBTQ community.

Demonstrators protest for transgender rights
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The year 2017 was the deadliest year on record for the LGBTQ community.

Culprits in crimes involving deaths of LGBTQ people sometimes get away using the “gay panic” or “transgender panic” defense in the courtroom. Now, Illinois has passed legislation that bans the use of such defense in case hearing. LGBTQ advocates now look at other states to pass their own bills.

With at least 28 gay people shot and killed in the United States this year, the Human Rights Campaign said 2017 marked the deadliest year for the transgender community, L.A. Times reported. People accused of killing LGBTQ people sometimes were able to avoid punishment or received lower sentences through the use of gay and trans defenses since the 1960s.

Gay and trans panic defenses mean that the person did not know at first that he or she is interacting with a gay or transgender person, and upon realization, they are overcome with rage or blind fury that they were able to commit the crime. Their attorneys would argue that they were triggered by the LGBTQ’s flirting or sexual advances to them.

Beginning January 1, 2018, attorneys in Illinois will be barred from using the gay and trans defense in the courtroom. The House and the Senate have approved the state law without a single no. It marks the second state in the country to ban the use of the defense, joining California, which passed the ban in 2014.

Chicago-Kent College of Law professor Anthony Michael Kreis helped draft the legislation in Illinois. He said that it is a reiteration that the state will protect the LGBTQ community from getting victimized again at the courtrooms.

A "Stop Killing Trans People" Sign
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LGBTQ advocates hope that progress will also be made in getting the trans defense banned in other states such as Texas, Maryland, and Washington, where it is allowed in courtrooms. Washington is expected to introduce a bill that bans the gay and transgender panic defenses in the coming weeks, while similar legislation is in the works in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, criminal law professor Cynthia Lee, of George Washington University, said a legislative ban may not be the best solution. Lee said that instead of banning the argument, the prosecutors should be able to recognize the bias and try to challenge them head-on.