Michigan House Votes to Abolish Gay-Trans Panic Defense in Murder Trials

Criminals in Michigan are getting away with murder if they have the right excuse. But state legislators just took a huge step toward stopping the “gay-trans panic defense” in its tracks. Here is the full story.

Some States Are Rough

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In 33 states across America, LGBQT+ people are walking on even more delicate eggshells than their counterparts in other parts of the country.

Danger Close to Home

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That’s especially true in their dating life, where there’s a chance a love interest could unleash a violent attack on them…and get away with it.

Michigan in Flux

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Michigan is one of those states, but legislators are working to change that.

Panic No Longer an Excuse

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In mid-October the Michigan House of Representatives passed Bill 4718, which seeks to outlaw the use of the so-called “gay-trans panic defense.”

A Low Bar

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That defense is usually used in cases where a straight person reacts violently to a sexual advance from an LGBQT+ person.

If that advance is deemed unwanted, even if it’s as simple as a casual date, the defense is on the table.

Happens All the Time

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According to Michigan’s Speaker Pro Tempore Laurie Pohutsky, the defense is used to prey on a vulnerable community much more often than the general public realizes.

Black Trans Women Are Targets

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Pohutsky, who is openly bisexual, also said that the “panic” defense has really ramped up in recent years as violence against trans women has escalated. That’s especially true in the Black community, she says.

She Knows All Too Well

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Julisa Abad is the Director of Transgender Outreach and Advocacy at Fair Michigan, a nonprofit organization.

She has seen these dangerous biases firsthand, since she is trans, Black, and also Hispanic.

A Cultural Bias

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Abad says that violence against trans women is baked into the culture, especially in big cities like Detroit.

Black Men Under Pressure

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Black men are often shamed by their family and friends for dating trans women, says Abad.

And that can have explosive consequences.

“Kill Us in Public”

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“African-American men rather love us in private and kill us in public than have anyone know of their association with trans women,” Abad says.

Societal Outlaws

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Abad also says that trans women and the men who love them are “villainized” by society, and especially in certain circles. 

Long Road Ahead

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Abad, who has helped Fair Michigan represent several victims in trials against their assaulters, applauds the passing of the bill but sees much work ahead.

Living the Good Fight

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“I’m going to continue to live the good fight,” Abad says as the bill moves to the Michigan senate for the next round of votes.

Deep Party Split

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The House was split down party lines in voting on the bill, with all 53 Republicans voting against it, and 56 Democrats voting for it.

No Margin for Error

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The party divide is similar in the state senate, where Democrats hold a slim 20-18 majority.

If party lines hold, the bill should pass there, too.

The Governor Awaits

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If the bill to kill the “gay-trans panic” defense makes it out of congress, it will head to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s desk.

A signature from the top Democrat in the state would make the bill a law.

No More Excuses

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Banning the “gay-trans panic” defense won’t stop violent attacks on LGBTQ+ people, of course, but at least it would take away one of the key tools their attackers use to get off the hook.

Protected and Cared For

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Pohutsky says she hopes it’s at least enough to “help people feel protected and cared for and seen in this state.”

The post Michigan House Votes to Abolish Gay-Trans Panic Defense in Murder Trials first appeared on Pulse of Pride

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Jacob Lund. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.

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