Following the passing of a bill, New Jersey will be the ninth state in the United States to ban the “gay and trans panic” defense in criminal homicide cases, reports NJ.gov.
On January 21, Governor Phil Murphy signed A1796 into law, prohibiting the gay panic defense, as he said that the defense is “rooted in homophobia and abhorrent excuses that should never be used to justify violence against vulnerable populations” and that he fully supports full equality and LGBT rights for all New Jerseyans.
In the past, the gay panic defense constituted a heat of passion provocation, which means that the person who murdered their LGBT victim was in an intensely emotional state when committing the crime. This was used to reduce the charge of murder to manslaughter. Frankly, I find that ridiculous because if someone being gay is enough to cause someone to lose their mind and murder someone, they probably only had a tenuous grip on reality in the first place.
Assemblyman John McKeon said that the gay panic defense is “not a freestanding defense to criminal liability, but rather a legal tactic” but instead a way to diminish the defendant’s violence and shift the blame to their victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. He also said “Whether the person was gay, transgender or heterosexual, sexual orientation should not have any bearing on determining a person’s guilt in a murder trial. It is prejudiced against the LGBTQ community.” And that it is. Being LGBT hurts nobody and does not affect anyone, so why should it be a factor in a murder trial? You know what does hurt people? Murder.
McKeon and Murphy aren’t the only people to speak out against this defense, however. Assemblywoman Joann Downey said that the gay panic defense is nothing “more than a transparent attempt to allow the assault or murder of LGBTQ individuals to happen with impunity.” Senator Joe Lagana echoed Downey’s thoughts and added that discrimination of any kind does not belong in New Jersey.
As a lifelong resident of New Jersey, I’m proud of this state to have made such a great decision to further LGBT rights in the United States. I now hope that the other 41 states follow suit and ban this archaic defense because it had no place in the past and it definitely doesn’t have a place in the present.