The National LGBT Bar Association – the country’s largest organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and allied legal professionals – has announced the introduction of the Secure A Fair & Equitable (S.A.F.E.) Trial Act to the D.C. City Council by Councilmember David Grosso, which would ban the use of the gay and trans “panic” defenses.
The gay and trans panic defenses ask a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression caused the defendant’s violent assault. The perpetrator claims that the victim’s real or perceived status as a member of the LGBT community excuses their loss of self-control.
“In this current political climate, the LGBT Bar stands ready to go on the offensive. Our community faces immense risk and someone must champion for their safety,” said D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the LGBT Bar. “Blaming a violent assault on the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression implies that LGBT lives are inherently less valued than those of their straight and cisgender counterparts. As a group that continues to focus on banning these defenses, having Councilmember Grosso as an ally in this fight is invaluable and we look forward to working with his office to make sure this legislation goes through.”
The LGBT Bar remains dedicated to ensuring that future victims do not face the same baseless and prejudicial accusations as those seen in the trials of Matthew Shepard in Colorado, Gwen Araujo in California, Ahmed Dabarran in Georgia, and Lawrence King in California. This legislation creates the opportunity to further protect the LGBT community in the District of Columbia courts. California banned the use of these defenses in 2014 and New Jersey, Illinois and Washington all have legislation pending.
The National LGBT Bar Association is a national association of lawyers, judges and other legal professionals, law students, activists, and affiliated lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender legal organizations. The association promotes justice in and through the legal profession for the LGBT community in all its diversity.