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Homophobia in Manslaughter: The Homosexual Advance as Insufficient Provocation

Robert B. Mison
California Law Review
Vol. 80, No. 1 (Jan., 1992), pp. 133-178
DOI: 10.2307/3480817
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3480817
Page Count: 46
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Homophobia in Manslaughter: The Homosexual Advance as Insufficient Provocation
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Abstract

As the law now stands, a nonviolent homosexual advance may constitute sufficient provocation to incite that legal fiction, the reasonable man, to lose his self-control and kill in the heat of passion, thus mitigating murder to manslaughter. The author argues that this homosexual-advance defense is a misguided application of provocation theory and a judicial institutionalization of homophobia. Provocation defenses have their origin and rationale in tangled theories of justification and excuse, both of which divert attention away from the killer and onto the behavior of the deceased victim. The homosexual-advance defense appeals to irrational fears, revulsion, and hatred prevalent in heterocentric society, focusing blame on the victim's real or imagined sexuality. In allowing the defense, the judiciary reinforces and institutionalizes violent prejudices at the expense of norms of self-control, tolerance, and compassion that ought to reign in society. The defense affirms homophobia and undermines the ability of courts to produce fair verdicts by creating a lower standard of protection against violence afforded to an identifiable class of victims. The author concludes that we ought to expect more from our courts: judges should hold as a matter of law that a homosexual advance is not sufficient provocation to incite a reasonable man to kill. Murderous homophobia should be considered an irrational and idiosyncratic characteristic of the killer rather than a normative social aspiration incorporated as the homosexual-advance defense into the standards that govern jury decisionmaking.

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