Vermont on track to ban the gay-, trans-panic defense

Originally published at: Vermont on track to ban the gay-, trans-panic defense | Boing Boing


Hooray! One more state where I can be murdered and it not be considered my own fault for being born.


Replace it with a QAnon-panic defense.


Slow progress is still progress, I guess. If bigotry were not wide spread such a ban would not be necessary.


Holy shit! I had no idea such bigotry was still baked into our legal system.

I’m aware of the “qualified immunity” bullshit, but that isn’t specifically targeted at any groups of victims - it only enables cops to get away with murder. I’m wondering what other similar victim blaming laws exist to “defend” the actions of violent criminals?


Not necessarily laws, but just about every defense used in rape trials.


This is wonderful in so many ways. States like Vermont have a track record of creating precedent laws that eventually get adopted elsewhere. Young Lady Peas’ best friend from an early age is trans and she texted me in a panic the other day about the Florida anti-trans legislation. It’s disgusting to have to tell a child that not only does hatred like this exist, but that there are people who are actively trying to criminalize their very existence. At least some people are trying to do better.

(Just as a note, I am in no way equating the disappointment of having to communicate the evils of this world to my child with the struggle to exist as a trans person; it’s simply another way that the insidious nature of these horrifying laws impact entire communities and our collective soul.)


You can call VT the anti-Mississippi. For every bill they pass to be hateful, we pass bills that actually help the population.


It’s not “baked in” in the sense that the law explicitly provides an excuse to murder LGBTQ people, it’s just that (until now) the law didn’t forbid defense attorneys from arguing “the victim’s sexuality made my client temporarily insane.”

It’s a defense that never should have worked for anyone but when you have homophobes on the jury sometimes all you need to do is give them an excuse to let the defendant off with a slap on the wrist.


So, this raises a question as to whether the defense has ever been invoked in the other direction—a gay person killing a heterosexual and claiming a “panic.”


“This bill ensures Vermont courtrooms never allow such obvious bigotry to come into trial – to heap further suffering onto the victim,”

Now have a national law passed and I’ll dance the jig, but it is a good start.


It’s an absurd argument really, just swap the sexual orientation angle for gender/age/race/[pretty much anything you can think of] and it’s still a stupid argument.

Does beggar belief that it requires legisation to prevent that ‘argument’ being used :slight_smile:


California was the first to ban it (2014), and Virginia banned it just recently becoming the 12th state to do so. It’s also banned in DC (2020)


It’s the 21st fucking century - how is this (gay/trans-panic) still possibly a thing? (And how did it not disappear as a viable defense strategy decades ago?) Although given how completely reactionary Republicans are, I’m also somewhat surprised the issue isn’t coming up because they are actively trying to enshrine it in law as a recognized legal defense…

Isn’t that basically the new Republican laws (e.g. in Florida, most recently) that legally allow for drivers to run over protesters? (Or is that the opposite?)

Well, there’s quite a history of white defendants getting away with murdering non-white people because they “felt threatened.” It’s legally enshrined in “stand you ground” laws and often accepted as a defense in states that don’t have those laws. There’s also a long history of men getting away with hurting and murdering women, with a variety of defenses. (I mean, sexual assault is almost never successfully prosecuted, “domestic abuse” has traditionally not been prosecuted even as women ended up hospitalized or killed, jealously has often been seen as a valid reason to murder women, etc.) So it’s sadly not so unique a situation - there are a lot of defenses accepted for hurting/killing marginalized people, as a way of maintaining the power structure.

Of course not, because these defenses are entirely about maintaining the status quo of the social dominance of cis het white males, period. Wilhoit’s description of conservatism yet again is relevant: “Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.”


Because being in the 21st century does not mean that we left behind prejudice? We’ve never dealt with and changed any of these social ills, because some people don’t want to be do the work. Or they just don’t think it’s wrong in the first place…


Yeah, sadly (and obviously). It’s just shocking this still is working as a defense (at least as of five years ago), and although California was the first to ban the defense, it only did so six years ago, in an era where there are numerous openly gay public figures, gay marriage is the law of the land, etc. This feels like a “I thought she was a witch” defense. It’s not that there still aren’t people who believe in witches and evil spirits, but even most of them wouldn’t accept it as a legal defense anymore. (Although it occurs to me that maybe I’m just giving religious conservatives too much credit here…)


I don’t suppose it has, or at least not successfully, but it would kind of be more plausible. I mean, if I said I thought I was in danger from a straight person, there is some factual basis for that.

I don’t know how this law is framed, but I trust they’ve thought through the details to make sure it can’t be turned against people who experience hate crimes. Anyway, it seems like more of a statement of intent than a practical measure; any court that could have been swayed by a “gay panic” argument is by definition incapable of treating queer people justly, regardless of what the law says.

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OK, so now that I’ve re-read it, VT is going to explicitly prohibit the misuse of the existing “temporary insanity” defense in these cases. So in the event that you claim to have been driven insane because someone else’s gender or sexuality didn’t align with your underdeveloped sense of humanity, the judge will call out your bigoted bullshit immediately. Maybe the attempted use of this nonsense could be used as evidence of a hate crime, and the judge could tack on an additional 10 years?

People are, and remain, the worst.


Geez. For a second I read the headline as “back” and my stomach lurched. Luckily it’s actually good news.


But in the words of William Gibson, not evenly distributed.