Washington (March 31, 2021) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) and Congressman Chris Pappas (NH-01) announced their plan to reintroduce the Gay and Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act which would ban the use of “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses in federal court. These defenses seek to excuse crimes, such as murder and assault, by arguing that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity provoked the defendant’s violent reaction, blaming victims for the violence committed against them. The Gay and Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act would curtail the availability of the gay and trans panic defenses, a step that many in the legal community have been urging for years. Just over 20 years ago, Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. One of Shepard’s killers raised the gay panic defense, arguing that Shepard’s unwanted sexual advances excused his violent acts. 
“The so-called gay and trans panic legal defenses only encourage systemic bigotry, corrode the legitimacy of federal prosecutions, and blame victims for the violence committed against them,” said Senator Markey. “There is no place for hate in our courtrooms. All Americans deserve to be treated with dignity and humanity in our justice system, which is why I call on my colleagues to support this bill and relegate this hateful practice of gay and trans panic defense to the history books. I thank Congressman Pappas for his partnership on this critical issue.”
“Allowing the bigoted 'panic' defense to be used in our legal system stigmatizes the LGBTQ+ community and allows violent perpetrators to avoid accountability,” said Congressman Pappas. “No one’s sexual orientation or gender identity is a defense for assault or murder, and it is time Congress follows the lead of the dozen states that have already banned this defense in their courts. Every American deserves the same protections under the law, and I am proud to work with Senator Markey to ensure that is fully realized.”
A copy of the Gay and Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act can be found HERE.
Original co-sponsors of this legislation in the Senate include Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Angus S. King Jr. (I-Maine), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
Original co-sponsors of this legislation in the House include Representatives Kathy Castor (FL-14), Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Jan Scakowsky (IL-09), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47). Linda Sanchez (CA-39), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Anna Eshoo (CA-18), Annie Kuster (NH-02), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Charlie Crist (FL-13), Andre Carson (IN-07), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Karen Bass (CA-37) and Mike Quigley (IL-05).
Several states have already taken legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of gay panic and trans panic defenses. California, Illinois, Rhode Island, Nevada, Connecticut, Maine, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Washington, Colorado, and the District of Columbia have banned such defenses, and similar legislation has been introduced in several states. These efforts are an important step towards the full equality of all individuals under the law, regardless of who they are or whom they love.