As the investigation continues into the murder of openly gay Mississippi mayoral candidate, Marco McMillian, there will be an increasing amount of media coverage. This coverage must be responsible. The Advocate published a piece entitled, "Gay Panic' Defense Trotted Out in Murder of Mayoral Candidate," which quoted suspect Lawrence Reed's friends and family suggesting that Reed was acting in self-defense. McMillian's family, along with Representative Bennie Thompson and the National Black Justice Coalition, has encouraged the FBI to get involved and investigate the murder as a hate crime. The FBI recently confirmed its involvement in the case.
In their article, The Advocate referred to "the tried-and-true 'gay panic' defense," including a number of statements from Reed's sister and roommate that allege such a scenario. However, while the "gay panic" defense is certainly tried, it is most definitely not true. "Gay panic" defense is blatant victim blaming and based on homophobia and harmful stereotypes. It has been used in many cases from the murder of Matthew Shepard to the murder of Lawrence King. Our media reference guide explains that, "Implying that an openly gay or transgender victim shares responsibility for being attacked, or that an attack was justified because of an unwanted romantic or sexual advance (the so-called “gay panic” or “transgender panic” strategy) often biases criminal or legal investigations." As the investigation into McMillian's murder continues, his sexual orientation will undoubtedly be brought up a lot. It is of the utmost importance that the media refute such victim blaming as another form of homophobia.
GLAAD urges everyone to pay close attention to this story and notify us of any irresponsible journalism by filling out an incident report, as we continue to monitor media coverage of this and similar stories.