Gay panic defenseGay Panic Defense is a term used to describe a certain type of defense against certain crimes, when defending in a court of law. Specifically, when a person claims to have committed a violent crime, attack, assault or murder against a person of the same gender because they allege that the person made romantic or sexual propositions, it is called "gay panic." The defense is usually unsuccessful in winning acquittals, but it is often successful at reducing culpability and mitigating punishments.
The rationale behind the argument is that a person can become so offended or outraged by the sexual or romantic interest of a homosexual that he or she is driven temporarily insane and commits an act that would not otherwise be of his or her character (like murder). The defense is widely believed to be illogical, offensive and based in ignorance.
The defense is often used in the United States of America, especially in Southern states, where prejudice against homosexuals is still very common. It is believed that this defense preys on social fear and disapproval of homosexuality among certain personality types.
This defense was used in the famous case against the murderers of gay bashing victim Matthew Shepard. The two accused claimed that Shepard propositioned them, and they were enraged to the point of violently murdering him. The use of the defense was successful in securing a conviction of Aaron James McKinney for second-degree rather than first-degree murder, but its use was met with outrage by the citizens of Laramie, Wyoming, where the crime took place.