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Connecticut lawmakers propose end to ‘gay and transgender panic’ defense

HARTFORD – A bill proposed by both Connecticut senate leadership and LGBT representatives in the house would ban a criminal defense dubbed “gay panic.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney’s proposed bill number 58, “An Act concerning gay and transgender panic defense,” would amend Connecticut general statues 53a.

The proposal would specify that “a criminal defendant may not use the shock of learning that the victim of the defendant’s crime was gay or transgender to justify our excuse the violence perpetrated by the defendant against the victim.”

A similar bill was introduced by Democrat Representatives Raghib Allie-Brennan, of Bethel, and Jeff Currey, of East Hartford. Both representatives are openly gay.

In 2013 the American Bar Association called for an end to these type of defense arguments. Since then, California, Illinois and Rhode Island have banned the defense.

According to the LGBT Bar Association gay panic defenses are “a legal tactic which is used to bolster other defenses.”

The LGBT Bar Association points to the case of Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in 1998, as one of the most recognized cases that employed the “gay panic” defense. Shepard was beaten to death by two men, whose defense argued the two attacked Shepard in a fit of rage after realizing he was gay. The men were still convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Both Connecticut bills have been referred to the judiciary committee. Legislation has also been proposed by federal lawmakers.

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