A law that prevents defense attorneys from using the gay or trans “panic” defense has been delayed because of the Capitol insurrection.
Federal law requires all laws passed by the District to get congressional approval and the laws must be hand-delivered to Congress. The safety fence installed around the Capitol following the attack by former President Donald Trump’s followers prevented the legislation from being delivered.
“What happened was when the Capitol fence went up after the January insurrection, it created an issue where we physically could not deliver laws to Congress per the congressional review period,” Eric Salmi, communications director for D.C. Council member Charles Allen, told the Washington Blade.
The bill requires a 60-day review by Congress. Under procedural requirements, the bill couldn’t be submitted until February 16 at the earliest. The added delay in delivering the legislation means that the law did not go into effect on May 12.
“There is a chance it goes into effect any day now, just given the timeline is close to being up,” Salmi said. “I don’t know the exact date it was delivered, but I do know the countdown is on. I would expect any day now it should go into effect and there’s nothing stopping it other than an insurrection in January.”
The gay and trans panic defenses are often used by defendants who are accused of violent crimes. They claim that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity made them panic.
For example, a straight man could claim that he went into a state of temporary insanity when he found out a woman he had sex with was trans and then attacked her.
The American Bar Association adopted a resolution calling for an end to the defense in 2013. Earlier this year, Vermont and Virginia added themselves to the list of 13 states that have banned the LGBTQ panic defense, and Oregon is set to become the next.
The gay panic defense has been used in several prominent cases. It gained national attention in a 1995 case where a gay man, Scott Amedure, told his straight friend Jonathan Schmitz that he was attracted to him on the Jenny Jones Show.
Three days later, Schmitz shot Amedure and turned himself into police, and he argued in court that he was “embarrassed” on national TV. He avoided a first-degree murder conviction and was convicted of second-degree murder.
The use of the gay panic defense received more public attention with the murder of Matthew Shepard, where his killers claimed that Shepard had “come onto” one of the duo. Similarly, the “transgender panic” defense gained prominence with the 2004 murder of Gwen Araujo in Newark, California.
D.C. residents have fought for years to become the 51st state. Becoming a state would nullify the law requiring congressional approval. While Democrats support the change, Republicans vehemently oppose it because the city overwhelmingly votes Democratic.
After President Joe Biden took office, the fence has been removed.