Spiegelman talks Nazis in opposing LGBTQ panic defense bill

Sam HautGovernment, Headlines


A bill banning the use of the LGBTQ panic defense has passed the House.
Photo by RDNE Stock project, Pexels.

A bill that would ban the use of the LGBTQ panic defense in Delaware courts passed the state House Thursday,  but not before one representative brought up Jews and Nazi Germany.

House Substitute 2 for House Bill 142, sponsored by Rep. Eric Morrison, D-Glasgow, would not permit a defendant to claim they reacted violently when they realized that someone else was of a certain sexual orientation or gender identity.

Before it passed, Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman, R-Townsend/Hartly, offered an amendment that would have changed the bill to include anyone who is a member of a protected class instead of only being based on someone’s sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Spiegelman said he’d withdraw his amendment if Morrison could promise him that there won’t be a Jew defense in Delaware.

“In Nazi Germany there was a Jew defense in the 1930s,” Spiegleman said. “If you’re talking to somebody and it turns out that they are a Jew, you are allowed to use violence against them. And the courts backed that up again and again in Nazi Germany. Promise me that that will never be set in this country. And it will never be used in Delaware. And I’ll scrap this amendment right now.” 

Spiegelman said the amendment should be made so Delaware would be protecting all residents.

“There should not be one protected class that gets the benefit of being protected from this kind of thing,” Spiegelman said. “ It should cover the entirety of all the protected classes that we as Delawareans in our position as state officials have decided to cover.”

Morrison opposed the amendment, which failed 14 to 25.

While Morrison said during the committee hearing for the bill that he was not aware of the defense being used in Delaware, he corrected the record Thursday. According to the LGBTQ section of the Delaware Bar Association, there are at least five times when the defense has been used in the First State, he said.

Related Story: House committee approves LGBTQ panic defense ban

Morrison didn’t specify when or where.

Morrison also talked about the 1988 case of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming and 1995 case of Scott Amedure of Pennsylvania where the defense was used.

“One of Matthew’s murderers put forth the gay panic defense, arguing that he was driven to temporary insanity by Matthew’s alleged sexual advances upon him,” Morrison said. “Fortunately, the judge in that case did not allow the defense. 

“You may also remember that in 1995, Scott Amador was fatally shot by acquaintance Jonathan Schmitz after Mr. Amador revealed a secret crush on Mr. Schmidt’s on the Jenny Jones Show. The gay panic defense was allowed in that case, but was unsuccessful.”

Morrison said the bill was supported by the Delaware Department of Justice, the LGBTQ+ section of the Delaware Bar Association, and Equality Delaware.

The bill passed 27 to 10, with Spiegelman not voting.

Morrison thanked the legislature for passing the bill during pride month.

The bill, which doesn’t require a fiscal note, has 23 additional sponsors and cosponsors, all Democrats except for Michael Smith, R-Pike Creek. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Share this Post