The "Gay Panic" Defense
Do you want to know how to get away with cold-blooded, premeditated murder in Queensland, Australia? Have you heard of the “Gay Panic” Defense? Pleading the “Gay Panic” Defense is an even better defense than pleading Temporary Insanity. A loophole in Queensland law allows people accused of murder to defend themselves in court by claiming “gay panic” -- that is, if someone who they think is gay “comes onto” them, the sheer panic that they feel is partial justification for murder.
- The “Gay Panic” Defense became “Case Law” in 1997.
- Is there really such a thing as “Gay Panic”?
- The gay panic defense is a classic tactic.
- I am no psychologist or psychiatrist.
- Promotes hate crimes.
The “Gay Panic” Defense became “Case Law” in 1997.
In 1997 a man murdered a man in Queensland, Australia who he thought was gay. The murderer testified under oath that the man had come on to him, flirted with him in a sexual manner. He told the judge and the court, “Yeah, I killed him, but he did worse to me.” The court agreed with him and the “Gay Panic” Defense entered Case Law status. The “Gay Panic” Defense remains on the Law Books in Queensland as a viable defense to this very day. As recently as 2010, a man murdered a gay man in a church yard, plead the “Gay Panic” Defense, and was acquitted of the murder charge. Almost all of the other Australian States have expunged the “Gay Panic” Defense from their Law Books, but it remains on the Law Books in Queensland. A relatively recent study has shown that Queensland is the most homophobic state of all the Australian States. Seventy-three percent of all gay and lesbian living in Queensland are subjected to verbal abuse or physical violence for their sexual orientation and the perpetrators get away with it without so much as a slap on the wrist.
Is there really such a thing as “Gay Panic”?
The gay panic defense is a legal defense against charges of assault or murder. A defendant using the gay panic defense claims that he or she acted in a state of violent temporary insanity because of a little-known psychiatric condition called homosexual panic. “Homosexual Panic” is a term that was first used by psychiatrist Edward J. Kempf in 1920, describing an acute, brief reactive psychosis suffered by the target of unwanted homosexual advances. Despite the psychotic nature of the disorder, Kempf called it "acute homosexual panic". The disorder is also known in Kempf's honor as "Kempf's disease".
The gay panic defense is a classic tactic.
The gay panic defense is a classic tactic when defending an indefensible crime: blame the victim, especially if that victim is gay. That is the way a Ventura County Star reporter described it in a 2011 article. Lawyers pleading their clients out under the “Gay Panic Defense” claim that no heterosexual man can possibly be expected to maintain his sanity when confronted with a same-sex advance. That is what the attorney for 17-year old Brandon McInerney used to defend him against a murder charge in 2008 after he shot and killed his 15-year old classmate, Lawrence King. What did King do to provoke McInerney to bring a gun to school and shoot him dead...he had asked McInerney to be his Valentine. Twenty-four hours had passed between the time King asked McInerney to be his Valentine and the time McInerney brought a gun into his classroom at Oxnard's E.O. Green Junior High School and shot King in the back of the head. They never denied the McInerney shot King in the back of the head, what they did was claim that McInerney did it "in the heat of passion caused by the intense emotional state between these two boys at school." Heat of passion that lasted 24-hours, now that is one for “The Ginnis Book of Records” or maybe “Ripley's Believe It or Not.” The same defense was used to explain away the brutalization of gay patrons during a 2009 police raid of a Fort Worth, Texas, bar. Golly, Gee, I had always thought that the police were trained to remain calm, rational, and objective under stress.
I am no lawyer but there is a very interesting article, The Gay Panic Defense, in the Law Review of the University of California at Davis, by Cynthia Lee. It is a rather long—most law journal articles, like medical journal articles, are very long—but it is an article well worth reading. I have placed a link to it in the reference section of this article.
I am no psychologist or psychiatrist.
Although I minored in psychology back in the day—my major was applied electrical engineering—I am far from being a psychologist of any stripe. I do vaguely recall reading about Edward J. Kempf and "Kempf's disease" in the literature but it remained deeply buried in my mind until I started researching this article. I have spent many years in the military and have been around many homosexuals—both gay men and lesbians. During my days of basic training and later tech school where we all lived in barracks holding eighty men or more, it was not uncommon to have a gay man come on to a heterosexual man in the showers—the showers were large affairs holding 15 to 20 men at a time. Advances were rebuffed, but no straight guy ever reacted to those approaches by bashing a gay guys head in against the shower's tiled walls. I do not think that any heterosexual male would react in such an extreme manner unless he had doubts about his own masculinity, unless he harbored desires to find out what it would be like to get it on with another guy, but could not admit to himself that he was having those feelings, those thoughts.
Promotes hate crimes.
Keeping such a law on the books does nothing but promote hate crimes. Some people passionate hate anyone that is different than they are and would love to beat them up or even kill them if they knew they could get away with it. In the case of beating up and even killing gays in Queensland, Australia, the “Gay Panic” Defense is their “Get Out of Jail Free Card.”
Kaplan, H.I. et al. ed. (1980), Comprehensive textbook of psychiatry, third edition Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore – London.
Chuang HT, Addington D. (Oct 1988). "Homosexual panic: a review of its concept". Can J Psychiatry. 33 (7): 613–7. PMID 3197016.
The Gay Panic Defense