Target: Assemblyman of New Jersey Tim Eustace
Goal: Applaud ban of “gay panic” defense in murder cases
For many years, homophobic killers have used their prejudice against LGBT people to escape murder charges. However, a New Jersey lawmaker has introduced a groundbreaking legislation that would make it illegal for “gay panic” defense to be used by criminals to evade those charges.
The defense, which has been used with changing measures of success in a number of cases across several states, has proven to be a controversial one as straight individuals charged with murder argue for a lesser manslaughter charge on the basis that they became so enraged at being pursued by a gay person or transgender individual that they entered a temporary state of insanity.
Although it’s unclear whether a “gay panic” testimony has been used in the state of New Jersey, Assemblyman Tim Eustace has urgently issued a bill to prohibit it from ever being a plausible defense. Eustace, who is the Legislature’s second openly gay member, told a New Jersey news outlet, “I want to make sure that we’re paying attention to things before they happen.”
Currently, New Jersey supports grants of subsidiary charges if crimes are committed “in the heat of passion with reasonable provocation.” Yet, provocation is not reasonable if it is based on discovery of an individual’s gender identity, expression or LGBT status. In other words, individuals shouldn’t be permitted to murder others for unwanted, non-forcible same-sex romantic or sexual advances.
The bill follows in the footsteps of other states, such as California, which introduced a similar legislation after two high-profile “gay panic” defenses shone a light on the absurdity of the presence of gay-bias defenses in the justice system. Sign the petition to thank Assemblyman Tim Eustace for prohibiting “gay panic” defenses in New Jersey.
Dear Mr. Tim Eustace,
I remember the shock and horror I felt after learning of the shooting murder of Larry King, just 14 years old, by one of his own classmates, Brandon McInerney, and the “gay panic” defense used to justify his homophobia in the court of law. I was doubly upset when I found out of the beating death of 17-year-old Gwen Araujo by a group of men who were enraged after they learned of her transgender status. These crimes, as unsettling and angering as they were, are no match for the hurt I felt when I learned that, in many states, the justice system supports the slaughter of LGBT people by heterosexuals that feel “threatened” by them.
The defense, rooted in centuries-old theories about homosexuality as a mental disorder, needs to be universally outlawed. Your introduction of a bill to ban “gay panic” defenses in murder charges in the state of New Jersey is a progressively reassuring step towards total equality, as criminals are no longer allowed to hide behind their homophobia and LGBT prejudice.
Thank you for being one of the few openly gay assembly members brave enough to spearhead such a bill. This legislation is an important protection for LGBT victims and their families. As a supporter of LGBT rights, I applaud your efforts to fight for the empowerment of LGBT people in the justice system.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Vade Parvis via Wikimedia Commons