Will Florida Be Next to Ban  the “LGBT Panic Defense”?

Will Florida Be Next to Ban  the "LGBT Panic Defense"?Members of the LGBT community have faced adversity and discrimination for hundreds of years, with some methods of prejudice dating as far back as the Middle Ages. In the United States, growing movements of LGBT rights activists have sought equality in the form of equal pay, job opportunities, marriage equality, and much more. Although modern sensibilities are more accepting of all sexual and gender identities, there are still a variety of ways that the LGBT community has been marginalized by long-held legal guidelines. 

Notably, one of the most damaging legal methods of discrimination is the “LGBT panic defense” strategy. With recent reports indicating that large populations of Florida identify as members of the LGBT community, residents of the state are wondering if it will be among the next locations in the United States to ban the use of this discriminatory defense strategy in court.

Understanding the LGBT Panic Defense Strategy

The basic definition of the “LGBT panic defense” is that it is a legal strategy used to defend actions, including assault and murder, through temporary insanity caused by unwanted attention from a member of the LGBT community. This approach is often used in conjunction with other legal defenses. This criminal defense strategy gained national attention during the Matthew Shepard trial in 1998. 

By employing this defense strategy against victims, attackers are able to excuse their behavior due to a period of “panic” that the victim caused them. Since 1970, there have been 104 murder cases where the defendants used the LGBT panic defense strategy. Although many states have since chosen to ban the defense method altogether, some states like Florida still have not banned its use.

Florida Families Fighting for Fair Treatment

Reports show that Florida has an estimated 886,000 individuals over the age of thirteen who are members of the LGBT community. These numbers continue to grow each year, but many of the problems that these residents face are still the same. Fortunately, Florida recently introduced protections against discrimination for LGBT residents, which can make it easier for both individuals and families to access employment, safe housing, or public accommodations.

Regardless of the development of anti-discrimination protections, other bills have been signed into effect in Florida which reduce the rights of LGBT people, such as the one banning transgender athletes from competing in school sports with other girls and women. This also includes the recent decision by Gov. Ron DeSantis to eliminate $750,000 approved by the Florida Legislature for the organization Zebra Coalition to create safe, sustainable housing for homeless LGBT youth, as well as discontinuing mental health support for victims of the Pulse shootings. Both these acts occurred during the first week of National Pride Month. Although most of Florida has come a long way to LGBT acceptance, there is still work to do. 

Banning the LGBT Panic Defense in Florida

In recent years, many states across the country have started to recognize that the use of the “LGBT panic defense” can be damaging for victims and the general perception of LGBT individuals as a whole. The continued existence of this specific defense method grants some defendants the ability to avoid holding themselves accountable for their discriminatory actions, many of which result in death.

A dozen states have already chosen to place a ban on the use of the “LGBT panic defense” for assault and murder cases when the victim was a member of the LGBT community:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia (D.C.)
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Rhodes Island
  • Washington

LGBT families living in states that still allow the use of the panic defense often struggle to feel completely safe. 

Effective Representation for Criminal Charges in Orlando

At the Umansky Law Firm, we have more than 100 years of experience defending those who are facing criminal charges throughout Central Florida. We understand the complexities of the justice system, and will strive to produce an effective, modern defense strategy that will produce the best results possible for your case.

To learn more, call (407) 228-3838 or contact us online to schedule a case consultation with one of our experienced defense attorneys.