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Michigan Senate passes bill to ban “gay panic” as a defense
Michigan Senate passes bill to ban “gay panic” as a defense

The Michigan State Senate passed a bill yesterday banning the use of “gay panic” and “trans panic” as a defense in court.

State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky introduced the bill in June 2023.

“Banning the ‘gay and trans panic’ defense would prohibit the use of disclosure of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, whether real or imagined, as a defense in court,” Pohutsky explained. “One truly notable use of this defense was in the murder of Matthew Shepard, when his killers claimed they were so disturbed by the knowledge that he was a gay man and fearful that he might make advances to them that they panicked and beat him to death.”

This defense has been used in court in the past to justify acts of violence against LGBTQ+ people by claiming that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity provoked the defendant to a violent response.

“I wanted to introduce this bill because I was a young queer man when Matt Shepard was murdered, and it was the first time that, even though I wasn’t out yet, I realized, ‘Oh, this could be very dangerous for me,'” Pohutsky says.

Although there was no concrete data on the frequency of use of this defense in Michigan, the representative emphasized that it is used more frequently in this state than in others.

The bill, House Bill 4718, will now be submitted to the governor for signature.

By Isla