Two Florida Democrats on Tuesday
introduced bills that seek to ban the use of the co-called gay and
transgender panic defense in criminal trials.
Criminal defendants who use the
controversial defense claim that a violent act was triggered by the
revelation of a victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation or
Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith,
who is openly gay, and Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book are
sponsoring the bills (House Bill 205 and Senate Bill 374).
Smith, who represents Orlando, told
Florida Politics that the legal strategy “shifts blame onto
the victims of violent crimes rather than their perpetrators.”
“As a survivor of hate violence, I
understand how gay or trans ‘panic defense’ can be used as a
legal strategy to justify or excuse violence against the LGBTQ
Smith. “It happened to me. The continued use of panic defense
in legal proceedings perpetuates anti-LGBTQ bias and shifts blame
onto the victims of violent crimes rather than their perpetrators,
which is why Florida must follow the lead of several states who
passed laws prohibiting its use in court.”
California was the first state to ban
the defense in 2014. Fourteen states, including New York, Illinois
and Nevada, have followed California's lead.