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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: July 17, 2018 11:40 AM
From: Senator Lawrence M. Farnese, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: "Gay and trans panic" homicide defense prohibition
In the near future, I plan on introducing legislation to ban the use of the “gay panic” and “trans panic” defense.

According to a report from The Williams Institute, the “gay and trans panic” defense allows perpetrators of murder against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals to receive a lesser sentence and in some cases even avoid being convicted or punished, by placing the blame for homicide on a victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Members of the LGBTQ community are facing an unprecedented rise in hate crimes. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), 2017 was one of the worst years for crimes against members of the LGBTQ community. NCAVP found that as of August 23, 2017, 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. This represents an increase of 29% from 2016.

In 2014, California became the first state to ban the use of the “gay panic” and “trans panic” defense. Illinois and Rhode Island have banned the use of this defense and a number of other states, including New Jersey and Washington, have legislation to ban the defense introduced. Representative Kennedy and Senator Markey have taken the lead to ban the “gay panic” and “trans panic” defense from the Federal system.

Pennsylvania currently allows the use of the “gay panic” and “trans panic” defense in murder trials. In 2015, Representative Schlossberg introduced House Bill 1509 which would ban the use of this defense in criminal homicides. My legislation would similarly prohibit the use of the “gay panic” and “trans panic” defense in homicide cases.

I hope you will join me in sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as SB1244