HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — In the midst of increased hate crimes, state Reps. Dan Miller and Adam Ravenstahl, (both D-Allegheny), introduced legislation to the state House that would disallow the use of “gay and trans panic” as a defense in criminal cases.
“I was appalled to learn that it is still possible in Pennsylvania for people to hide behind hate as justification for their actions,” Ravenstahl said in a release. “As a strong supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, we need to continue moving forward to ensure that all Pennsylvanians, regardless of whom they love, have the same basic civil rights.
“Too many Pennsylvanians in the LGBTQ+ community are living in fear,” Miller said in the release. “It is simply unjustifiable in any context that this type of defense can be used in 2020 as an excuse for a crime of violence. With acts of hate unfortunately on the rise in recent years, it is very important that we say, ‘enough is enough,’ and stand in support of our LGBTQ+ community.”
“Gay and trans panic” serves to excuse criminal actions against the LGBTQ+ community and receive a lesser sentence or avoid conviction by placing blame on the victim’s identity.
That defense has been used to previously excuse assaults and murders.
“Removing the possibility of this abhorrent defense from the books is a step the right direction and one that I hope will receive broad bipartisan support and swift passage,” Ravenstahl said in a release.
The defense strategy has already been outlawed in California, Illinois, Rhode Island, Nevada, Connecticut, Maine, Hawaii, New York, and New Jersey, according to the LGBT Bar Association.
Similar legislation has been introduced to the Pennsylvania Senate where it has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both Reps. believe this kind of legislation is important given the recent rise in hate crimes.
2017 was one of the worst years for crimes against members of the LGBTQ+ community, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. NCAVP found that 36 hate-violence-related homicides of LGBTQ+ and HIV affected people had been reported, which represents nearly one homicide a week of a member of the LGBTQ+ community.