Vermont Ends 'Gay Panic' Defense

Sunday May 9, 2021
Originally published on May 8, 2021

The "gay panic" legal defense is finally no more in Vermont. As reported by The Hill, this week the state's Republican governor signed House Bill 128, forbidding legal defense teams from using gender identity and sexual orientation to justify violence against LGBTQ people.

An unexpected move from someone in the Republican party, "The legislation stands in contrast to more restrictive bills passed by other Republican governors aimed at the LGBTQ+ community," reports The Hill. But a welcomed step for preventing violence against LGBTQ people all the same.

In remarks during the bill's signing, the Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said: "What this bill does is make sure a victim's sexual orientation or gender identity can't be used to defend or justify a criminal act, or to lower a sentence," reports The Hill.

According to the American Bar Association, sexual identity is the third leading cause of hate crimes in the United States. The "gay panic" defense all but makes these crimes legal to justify crimes against LGBTQ people.

Addressing the partisanship of the bill, Gov. Scott said: "With this legislation, Republicans, Democrats and Progressives alike sent a message to Vermonters, that your identity should never be an excuse for someone to cause you harm," he said. "While this effort is a step in the right direction, we know there is still more work to do to ensure all Vermonters, regardless of identity, feel safe and protected in our state. I look forward to continuing our work together in the future."