The “gay panic” and “trans panic” defense remains viable in court in 47 U.S. states. The defense states the accused feared for their life because of knowledge of the victim’s sexual orientation, resulting in a shorter sentence for the offender. The severity of causes often drop down the scale to a “gross misdemeanor” according to bill SB 97 on behalf of the Nevada Youth Legislature. Though the defense is used rarely, it is used successfully.
Oliva Yamamoto, the chair of the Nevada Youth Legislature, presented the bill. Yamamoto also attended school with Giovanni Melton.
Melton was a 14-year-old shot and killed by his father after an argument about Melton’s sexual orientation. Veronica Melton is in support of bill SB 97, and told Nevada Current that Giovanni’s father’s actions should not have a “defense for what he did.”
Nevada is considering eliminating the gay panic defense. While that’s good, I still can’t believe in 2018 that’s even remotely considered a legitimate defense anywhere. I know that’s naive, but still…
— Justin Yurmouth (@justinyurmouthx) March 20, 2019
Brad Sears, a developer of the bill, further emphasized to Nevada Current the importance of bill SB 97. He explained the bill “is for the state to take a stand against this epidemic of violence and to say the state protects LGBT people.”
Many others supporters against the “gay panic” and “trans panic” defense consider it pseudoscience based on the common arguments the defense will bring light, to such as loss of capacity, provocation, and self defense.
The National LGBT Bar Association explains the defense will claim the sexual orientation of a person incited a nervous breakdown which caused them to lash out, therefore justifying their actions. The psychological term for this, “gay panic” disorder, is what gave this tactic its name, but it was later proved unscientific by the American Psychiatric Association.
In arguments of provocation, many state that a non-sexual advance made by the victim was enough to use violence. A non-sexual advance is not seen as illegal in any other cases, but when it is linked with the queer community, it is sometimes accepted as a defense.
The year 2017 saw over 25 deaths of members of the transgender community due to violence, and in early 2018, 26 deaths were recorded.
Nevada lawmakers are now attempting to get rid of this defense. This will allow tried and convicted offenders to be given the appropriate sentence and not have their actions justified.