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June 11, 2019

To Mark Pride Month, Senator King and Colleagues Introduce Bill Banning Gay & Trans ‘Panic’ Defense

“Bigotry Should Not Be an Acceptable Defense”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) announced his support for the Gay and Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act – which prohibits defendants from using gay or trans panic defenses in trials.   “Gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses seek to excuse or mitigate crimes such as murder and assault by arguing that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity provoked the defendant’s violent reaction, essentially blaming victims for the violence committed against them.

“Equality, opportunity and justice are synonymous with the values that we hold true as Americans,” said Senator King. “The gay and trans panic defense certainly does not reflect those values, and this bill will ensure that individuals will not be able to use this homophobic defense to excuse their abhorrent actions. Bigotry should not be an acceptable defense in the American justice system; our LGBTQ citizens in Maine and across the nation deserve better.”

"LGBTQ people are already at a higher risk of violence, and the FBI reports that anti-LGBTQ hate crimes have increased in recent years,” said Matt Moonen, Executive Director, EqualityMaine. “That a perpetrator could use the gay or trans 'panic' defense to not only explain - but excuse - a violent crime against an LGBTQ victim is abhorrent, and implies that LGBTQ lives are worth less than others. We are grateful to Senator King for continuing his legacy of leadership on LGBTQ issues by co-sponsoring this important legislation."

Just over 20 years ago, Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. One of Shepard’s killers raised the gay panic defense, arguing that Shepard’s unwanted sexual advances excused his violent acts. Last month Nevada became the fourth state to ban gay and trans panic defenses, joining California, Rhode Island and Illinois. Similar legislation has been introduced in the state of Maine, as well as New Jersey, Washington, New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas, New Mexico, Connecticut, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia.

Senator King has worked to ensure equality and justice is available to all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. He is a cosponsor of the Equality Act and led bipartisan legislation to protect LGBTQ Americans from housing discrimination. He voted to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which provides all Americans with basic protections against workplace discrimination, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The legislation is endorsed by EqualityMaine, the National LGBT Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, the Trevor Project, the Transgender Law Center, the American Unity Fund, National Trans Bar Association, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Trans United, Equality Federation Lists, MassEquality, Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth,  Equality California, Equality NY, Equality Ohio, Silver State Equality, LGBT Bar Association of Greater NY, One Colorado, URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, Sexuality and Education Council of the United States, LGBT Technology and Partnership Institute, Modern Military Association of America (LGBTQ veterans and service members), Fenway Health, the Fenway Institute, and Identity, Inc. Alaska.

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