Commend Elimination of Anti-Gay Defense Arguments in Court

Target: American Bar Association President Laurel G. Bellows

Goal: Applaud the American Bar Association for formally curtailing the use of “gay panic” and “trans panic” defense arguments during prosecutions

The American Bar Association (ABA) – America’s largest lawyer organization – recently voted to end the use of  the defense arguments “gay panic” and “trans panic” in prosecutions. The official statement from the ABA says that they urge  “federal, state, local and territorial governments to take legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of the ‘gay panic’ and ‘trans panic’ defenses.”

These defense arguments attempt to partially or totally excuse serious crimes such assault, discrimination, and murder on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity led to the defendant’s crime against the victim. The “Gay panic” defense is often used to claim that unwanted sexual advances from gay men naturally lead heterosexual men to commit violent crimes or murder, and that they therefore cannot be held accountable for their actions.

In California in 2002, transgender teen Gwen Araujo was murdered after her attackers discovered her gender identity. The defense tried to use the “trans panic” argument as a justification for her murderers actions, leading to the passing of a law designed to blunt the use of panic defense arguments. However, even those laws didn’t solve the problem, and similar arguments have still been used in at least 45 cases nationwide since.

Using a victim’s sexuality or identity as a way to defend hate crimes is unacceptable and nonsensical. The ABA’s resolution solidifies the fact that LGBT people’s identity cannot be used as any form of justification for crimes that have been committed against them.

The ABA is sending a clear message that such arguments should not be allowed in courtrooms anymore. Sign the petition below to commend these actions.


Dear Laurel G. Bellows,

The American Bar Association recently voted to stop the use of “gay panic” and “trans panic” defense arguments in the courtroom. These arguments are sometimes used by defense attorneys to provide partial or total justification for hate crimes committed against LGBT individuals.

“Gay panic” and “trans panic” arguments allow murderers and violent attackers to get away with hate crimes and assault. These defense strategies have no place in a just court system. I commend the ABA’s commitment to working towards eradicating these arguments from courtrooms and encourage the association to take the necessary steps to make sure the resolution is enforced.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Fayerollinson via WikiMedia Commons

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46 Signatures

  • Darlene Roepke
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  • Ann Blank
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