Vermont to become 13th US state to ban ‘senseless’ gay and trans panic defences. Only 37 more to go

Josh Milton
·2-min read

Vermont is on track to become the 13th US state to ban the outdated and abhorrent gay and trans panic defences.

The Vermont Senate unanimously voted Wednesday (21 April) to sign a state measure that will stop defendants from citing a victim’s sexuality or gender, perceived or otherwise, to justify the killing of queer people.

The decades-old legal strategy, long used to chillingly win a jury’s sympathy, lessen charges or shorten a sentence, says that people kill or become violent in a state of temporary insanity because the victim is LGBT+.

While the defence has never been used in the state, senators voted 29-0 to stop anyone from becoming the first, VTD reported.

Vermont bans ‘senseless’ gay and trans panic defence

In doing so, gay senator Brian Campion said on the virtual floor, provision H128 “will never allow a senseless legal argument to act as cover for personal, societal or systemic prejudices and biases”.

“This bill ensures Vermont courtrooms never allow such obvious bigotry to come into trial – to heap further suffering onto the victim,” he added.

“As a gay man, I take great pride in this body taking this step – another step in a long line of steps it has taken – to undo, reverse, and end long-held and entrenched societal bigotries.”

The Vermont Senate will give final approval to the legislation Thursday (22 April) after which it will be shuffled back to the House.

Considering House lawmakers already passed a version of the bill 144-1 last month, the bill is unlikely to face any roadblocks.

Senators tweaked the bill to stop the defence from being mounted not only at trial but during sentencing, too.

The move follows Virginia, whose governor signed the ban into law earlier this month, and may soon be followed by Maryland – the bill passed its third reading 47-0 this month.

It’s all part of a nationwide push to have the defence – considered by activists and legal experts to effectively codify discrimination into law – to abolish it for good.

Similar measures are inching closer across a dozen state legislators, including Florida and Texas, according to the LGBT Bar, which is monitoring the passage of gay and trans panic defence bans.

The American Bar Association urged all US governments to ban it in 2013.

Writing in a report, attorneys described the defence which has been used since as early as the 1960s as a “remnant of a time when widespread public antipathy was the norm for LGBT+ individuals”.

“By fully or partially excusing the perpetrators of crimes against LGBT+ victims,” they wrote, “these defences enshrine in the law the notion that LGBT+ lives are worth less than others.”