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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: July 22, 2015 11:43 AM
From: Representative Michael H. Schlossberg
To: All House members
Subject: Gay Panic Defense
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation that will amend Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses), § 2503 (Voluntary Manslaughter), of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to define the term “serious provocation” in order to prevent the gay panic defense.

Some criminal defendants have been known to invoke the “gay panic argument,” often referred to as the Homosexual Advance Defense, the Homosexual Panic Defense, and the Homosexual Rage Defense, when facing homicide charges. A criminal defendant employing this defense claims that killing the victim is a fear-based reaction to sexual or romantic advances or declarations by a transgender or gay person, and relies on sympathy from the jury to mitigate a murder charge to manslaughter, or to avoid conviction altogether. Though there is no defined version of the defense in any statute, the use of the gay panic defense often looks like a form of insanity, diminished capacity, provocation, or self-defense.

Under current Pennsylvania law, a person commits manslaughter if at the time of the killing he is acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation by another. My legislation would clarify that the term “serious provocation” does not include the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the homicide victim's actual or perceived gender identity or expression, or affectional or sexual orientation.

In 2013, the American Bar Association passed a resolution urging states to outlaw use of the defense, indicating that there is no scientific research to support the existence of the panic defense. Last year, California became the first state to ban the use of the gay panic defense. The New Jersey legislature is considering a measure to ban the defense as well. I ask that you please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation. If you have any questions about this proposal, please contact my Legislative Assistant, Geoff Brace (gbrace@pahouse.net).

Introduced as HB1509