2 Law & Sexuality: Rev. Lesbian & Gay Legal Issues 81 (1992)
Dismantling the Homosexual Panic Defense

handle is hein.journals/lsex2 and id is 85 raw text is: Dismantling The Homosexual Panic
Defense
Gary David Comstock*
I. INTRODUCTION
Writing in 1967, Wainwright Churchill reported the following in Ho-
mosexual Behavior Among Males: A Cross-Cultural and Cross-Species
Investigation:
Not infrequently, so-called homosexuals have been murdered with
impunity in some European countries and in the United States most
particularly, as recently as the last few years. We refer to those cases
in which judges and juries have been persuaded to bring in a verdict
of not guilty when the murderer had been a supposed victim of
homosexual seduction, even though the law does not provide for such
a defense. The implication of such a verdict is that sexual virtue and
propriety, within this context at least, are above life itself.'
With the advent of the gay/lesbian movement in the 1970's,2 the greater
acceptance and/or more open public discussion of homosexuality by the
general public,3 and the trend to decriminalize homosexuality, as reflected
in the reduction in the number of states with statutes prohibiting sexual
activity between consenting adults of the same gender,4 a strategy of legal
defense that had relied almost exclusively on the anti-gay/lesbian biases of
judges and jurors was challenged to find a basis in reason, fact, and law.
* Professor Comstock received his Ph.D in ethics from Union Theological Seminary (NYC) and is
currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at Wesleyan University. Columbia University
Press published his book, VIOLENCE AGAINST LESBIANS AND GAY MEN in 1991.
1. WAINWRIGHT CHUICHILL, HOMOSEXUAL BEHAVIOR AMONG MALES: A CROSS-CULTURAL
AND CROSS-SPECIES INVESTIGATION 80 (1967).
2. See TOBY MAROTTA, THE PoLrIcs OF HOMOSEXUALITY (1981).
3. DENIS ALTMAN, THE HOMOSExuAuZATIoN OF AMERICA 101-02 (1983) (citing NBC polls
showing that support in the United States for gay/lesbian rights increased between August 1980 and
May 1981); A Newsweek Poll on Homosexuality, NEWSWEEK, Aug. 8, 1983, at 33 (showing that the
percentages of people polled who think homosexuals should have equal rights in terms of job oppor-
tunities increased from fifty-nine percent in June 1982 to sixty-five percent in July 1983); and
Robert Reinhold, Many Sniff Politics in Gay Rights Veto, N.Y. TIMES (National Edition), Oct. 1,
1991, at A16 (reporting that the independent California Poll found that Californians, including
Republicans, heavily supported the [lesbian/gay rights] bill recently passed by the state legislature
and subsequently vetoed by the governor).
4. JOHN D'EMIUO, SEXUAL POLITCS, SEXUAL COMMUNITIES: THE MAKING OF A HOMOSEX-
UAL MINORITY IN THE UNITED STATES 1940-1970 238 (1983) (reporting that during the 1970's
more than half the states repealed their sodomy laws).

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