Op-Ed: Alabama should ban gay and trans ‘panic’ defenses
Alabama’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has come a good way in only three years. In 2015, a federal judge in Mobile struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, giving way for Alabama’s same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. In 2017, Birmingham approved a city ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, as did the city of Montevallo this past year.
But Alabama still lags far behind other states in ensuring its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents are treated equally. As I wrote two years ago about the murder of bisexual teen Nick Hawkins, Alabama still does not have a state hate crime law covering crimes motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.
Another lesser-known area where Alabama lags behind, and most states for that matter, is that it allows criminal defendants to invoke so-called “gay panic” and “trans panic” in their defense, as do 48 other states.
What this means, is that if a defendant experiences an unwanted sexual advance by a member of the same sex, or discovers the biological sex or gender identity of a date or partner, they can argue that they entered into a “state of panic” and killed the LGBT victim. This allows the jury to consider a lighter charge and sentence.