Apr 9, 2019 in Law

Homosexuals and Criminal Justice System

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Introduction

Homosexual is a term used to refer to a person who is attracted to the same sex. Together with the bisexual and transgender they are referred to by the acronym LGBT. They can be of either gender with male being referred to as “gays” and the females as “lesbians”. They exist across all areas of the society regardless the class, race or nationality. These minority groups have previously faced physical violence and violated rights motivated by their sexual orientation. However, homosexuality has been in existence for the longest time with history naming great names like Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great and Plato being associated with it (Sloan, 1997). From normal society, the criminal justice system and military service, homosexuals have concealed their true identities based on fear of being unaccepted by their own humanity. Of late, these groups have come strongly to advocate for their rights as equals with the rest of the society.

The homosexuals are frequently subjected to prejudice and discrimination facing such damaging violence like gay bashing and hate crimes. Society mocks and hazes them for being attracted to same sex and criticizes their chosen lifestyles because they identify more with their own kind rather than heterosexuals. Psychological ideologies such as phobia’s manifest into hatred cause biased stereotyping and confrontational aggression. In various countries, the constitutions still do not legalize homosexuality. This denies these individuals the right to enjoy the sexual orientation freedom. Anal sex between males has been condemned in the society and churches and has been termed as unnatural. However, in some western countries like Canada, Western Europe, Australia and United States, homosexuality has been more accepted. In United States of America and United Kingdom, there are set days to celebrate the rights of homosexuals (McNamara, 2009).

Hate Crimes and Criminal Justice System

In 1998, trials of Aaron McKinney for the murder of a gay college student Matthew Shepard formed the basis of gay rights legislation in the United States which led to various groups advocating for this minority groups rights. During the trials in Michigan, it was reported that Shepard was murdered because he was gay. The defense to the accused, McKinney, used the “Gay Panic Defense” arguing that McKinney did panic when Shepard made sexual advances on him. This made him temporally insane which led to action. This confirmed that the murder was sexually driven. Many people believed that Shepard was killed due to his homosexuality and during his funeral there were chants against homosexuality lead by the church members who saw no loss in losing a gay (Harr, 2012). However, the jury did not acknowledge neither base their ruling on the sexuality issue but it became a catalyst for the hate crime legislation.

There are basic human rights like equal treatment, freedom of speech, liberty and association which are popularly known as civic rights. One should not be denied of this right based on their sex, religious affiliation or race as long as it does not threaten the societal development. This has not stopped the society and the justice system from discriminating the citizens who are homosexuals simply on the sexual preference basis. Homosexuals have faced many torturous obstacles because of their sexual preference. The debates surrounding this minority group have generated a lot of heat worldwide than they ought to. Critically thinking, it is an individual right to choose his sexual preference just like he/she chooses which religion to associate with. This kind of attitude by the society towards gays and lesbians has seen the society discriminate and harass them as well as deny them equal rights and treatment in our courts. Homosexuality has been labeled a crime by the societies who for a long time have denied its existence despite being around since human history. Personal and institutional hostility toward the homosexuals has been entrenched in the society to become a norm of life. They have been discriminated in employment housing and other services.

There exist loopholes in the judiciary where defendants get away with violating the rights of the gays. The “Gay Panic Defense” has allowed for lenient punishments on sexual oriented offenders. The arguments that the attacker was enraged by advances made by the victim thus stopping them from thinking straight do not hold water. It has been used in the past cases like in Kenneth Brewer V Stephen Bright (1997) USA, where Bright the defendant killed Bright in the victim’s apartment. The defense counsel successfully used the gay panic defense and Brewer was charged with third-degree assault and sentenced to one year in prison. This was unfair to the victim as it would have been a heterosexual case, the defendant would have been charged with a second or first-degree murder.

Crimes against individuals based on their sexuality are worse than normal crimes viewed from the psychological perspective. For this reason, they have been included in the list of hate crimes in US laws. It takes longer to recover from this kind of crimes than the regular crimes and usually the victims of sexual crimes tend to suffer from depression. This is because they feel that they are suffering for their sexual orientation which should be their fundamental right. Gays and lesbians tend to hide their real identity from fear of being discriminated and assaulted by their families and the society at large (McNamara, 2009). Until recently, the American military and servicemen were not allowed to practice homosexuality. This shows the level of ignorance in the society where they deny the rights of LGTB due to their sexual preference (Himmelstein & Bruckner, 2009).

Despite the ills done, there have been tremendous changes towards the homosexuals in the society. These have either been a result or have lead to the legislations securing the LGBT rights. The modern culture is slowly adopting homosexuality though not as a right but as a lifestyle. There has been a rise of advocacy groups like the America Veteran for Equal Rights, Gay Liberation Front among others, which campaigns for the right of the homosexuals. Worldwide, the perception of homosexuals is slowly taking shape with the religious groups taking a forefront. States are signing a law which incorporates the security of individuals despite their sexual orientations. Politicians are supporting the homosexual laws either in theory or in practice (McNamara, 2009).

The struggle for equal rights of homosexuals has been an issue of major concern and has taken the forefront in today’s America. In the judiciary, on the streets and on the floor of the congress, the issue has for a while dominated. Public figures have joined the debates with some going to the stretch of declaring their homosexuality to the public and TV reality shows hosting gay characters to declare their sexuality to the public. The legal systems have been enforcing the presumed cultural norms that dictate the sexual partners one should have. Sodomy laws have been used to discriminate the lesbians and gays and justify the violence against their civil rights (Sloan, 1997).

The freedom of the LGBT can be traced back to 1969 when the modern movements to see an end of sexually oriented discrimination started. A tavern in New York, Stone Wall, was a popular joint for the homosexuals in Greenwich Village. The patrons fought back the violent police who had raided them. These triggered statewide activism though on the grassroots levels. The Stonewall rebellion formed the basis for strategies used later by the national movements calling for social change (Mason, 1993). It led to withdrawal of sodomy laws by several states thus banning discrimination to the homosexuals. It also led to public acknowledgement of the minority group and awarded equal rights and benefits by public and private institutions like the University of California.

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It is important for the society to embrace the diverse nature of the modern world and as they do this equality will be administered to all regardless their sexual affiliation. Progress in acknowledging the homosexuals in the community have been made in the last decade. In 1997, the then USA president Bill Clinton legalized the existence of gays in the military. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule was introduced to cover the servicemen. However that was not adequate enough as discrimination perused. In the same year, University of California extended the health care benefits to cover the homosexuals which were a landmark gain for the minority group. However much needs to be done to protect the rights of these individuals (Sally, 2001).

In 2001, GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) sued the Massachusetts department of health for denying same sex couples marriage certificates. The case Goodridge V. Dept. of Public Health (Mass.2003) attracted a lot of interest as it sought to legalize LGBT marriages. In the first round, the court ruled in favor of the department and GLAD appealed in the Supreme Court against the ruling. In their ruling the court ruled in favor of same sex marriages and the Chief Justice stated that the constitution found no adequate reason to deny marriage to same sex couples. It was found irrational to deny them their fundamental right and it was not a privilege but a right to be protected. These ruling formed the benchmark to same sex marriages being acknowledged as legal marriages. As a result of this ruling, over 1000 same sex marriages took place in Massachusetts demonstrating the large number of people who previously had been denied their rights (Harr, 2012).

In 2007, the Matthew Shepard Act, named after Matthew Shepard the college student murdered in 2003, got to the U.S Congress as a federal registration introduced by a democrat John Conyers and other co-sponsors. It was passed by the House of Representatives as well as the senate house but the then president George Bush opposed it forcing it to be dropped. It was followed by expansion of the hate crimes legislation to enforce severe punishments. In 2009, the Matthew Shepard bill was adopted to the constitution as an amendment to S.1390. The American president Barrack Obama signed it to law bringing a sign of success to a long struggle by the homosexuals (Harr, 2012). At last the gays and lesbians movements had achieved a landmark in their campaigns.

Conclusion

There exists fear and prejudice between those who support and practice homosexuality and its opponents. Throughout history, many people have been mistreated, assaulted, persecuted and even killed for practicing homosexuality. Everyone is entitled to their opinion to describe homosexuality by condemning or embracing it but not discriminate the other side. In the 20th century, when Martin Luther King was advocating for equal rights to the African Americans, many were opposed to the movement. In the modern America, the movement has achieved much with the greatest achievement being changing the cultural perception towards the blacks (McNamara, 2009). No one should be denied the right to live because of being homosexual despite the cultural beliefs in this time and age. Religion may term it sinful but there need to be an understanding that it’s a personal choice and right of exercise that must be guarded by the constitution.

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