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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: April 6, 2021 01:38 PM
From: Senator Maria Collett
To: All Senate members
Subject: Prohibition of the LGBTQ+ Panic Defense
Soon, I will be introducing legislation that would prohibit the use of any LGBTQ+ panic defense (previously known as and introduced under “gay panic” and “trans panic” defense) in this Commonwealth.  This bill will be a companion to legislation introduced by Representative Sanchez.

Pennsylvania currently allows the use of the “LGBTQ+ panic” defense. Bills similar to this one have been introduced in past legislative sessions in both the house and the senate.  The legislation would extend beyond the obsolete language of two terms, Gay and Trans, and be more inclusive of all members of this marginalized group of people by prohibiting the court system from allowing a defense of this nature in consideration of serious provocation.

The “LGBTQ+ panic” defense theory allows for perpetrators of criminal actions against Pennsylvanian’s LGBTQ+ community to receive a lesser sentence and, in some cases even avoid being convicted or punished, by placing the blame for their actions on a victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression. Use of this criminal justice loophole is a human rights violation and needs to be closed immediately.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community continue to face an unprecedented rise in hate crimes each year. According to FBI Hate Crime statistics, incidents targeting the LGBTQ+ community have been increasing steadily each year between their reports from 2016 to 2019.  2020 was deemed the “season of violence” by the Human Rights Campaign because of the exorbitant number of transgender assaults and murders within the year.  The LGBTQ+ community needs our help.  As a group of people who see discrimination and violence directed towards them on many levels regularly, it seems that the justice system should not be one of those levels. A victim of violence should not feel that their justice system will not protect them because of a loophole that targets their very existence.  We would like to see Pennsylvania join the growing list of states (13 total as of today) that protect their LGBTQ+ citizens by allowing them the same possibility of justice as everyone else if they find themselves victims of a violent crime.  This year alone, both Virginia and Vermont have had similar bills signed into law with other states not far behind.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation to show a strong message of support to our LGBTQ+ constituents.

Introduced as SB854