Given how chaotic the news seems to be everyday, it can be easy to miss stories that are crucial and consequential to certain communities. On July 14, Colorado became just the 11th U.S. state to outlaw the use of the ‘trans panic’ and ‘gay panic’ criminal defense.
The ‘trans panic’ defense is a legal strategy used as mitigating evidence for a defendant accused of assaulting or even murdering a gay or trans individual. Defendants claim to have been so shocked, offended, or outraged at perceived sexual advances from a member of the LGBTQ+ community that they argue diminished capacity or self-defense.
One may think that the advancement of LGBTQ+ rights would be covered prominently by major news media. In this case, that thinking proved to be wrong.
According to AllSides’ analysis, very few major news sources reported the news within the first day. The Hill was our only featured source to report on the news. Media outlets known for covering news affecting the LGBTQ+ community such as LGBTQ Nation, The Advocate, and Pink News reported on it, as did some local Colorado newspapers including the Denver Post. However, coverage of the ban was absent from major media on both the left and right.
The ban is considered a significant win for LGBTQ+ rights by civil rights activists. Since 2014, Illinois, California, New Mexico, Maine, Rhode Island, New York, Nevada, Hawaii, Washington, and New Jersey have also banned the panic defense. A 2018 congressional bill aimed to ban the trans panic defense for federal defendants. The same bill was reintroduced as H.R. 3133 in 2019. The Illinois ban was passed during the tenure of Governor Bruce Rauner. He is the only Republican governor to pass such a bill as of July 2020.
When New Jersey banned the panic defense in early 2020, mainstream media sites like NBC News, the New York Post, US News and World Report, and the New York Daily News did report on the incident. The Washington Times reposted an Associated Press story on the matter. Washington state’s ban of the panic defense, also in early 2020, was also covered similarly by some of the outlets listed above. The Seattle Times reported on Washington’s ban and HuffPost reposted an AP story. Reuters ran a story about the panic defense in general and briefly mentioned Washington’s move.
The ongoing push for LGBTQ+ equality has garnered substantial media coverage in the past few years, but national crises like the coronavirus pandemic and inflammation of racial tensions have made other stories outside seem hard to find. Underrepresented communities are no less worthy of media attention amid other social and political predicaments; some might argue those crises make reporting on minority communities and uncommon perspectives even more important.
Balancing coverage is a constant and inescapable challenge. Sometimes, stories relevant to local or state regions don’t make their way to the national forefront, and editors will always have to make tough editorial decisions about what to cover with limited resources. But it is still worth noting when certain stories have not gotten the attention some would think they deserve.
Never settle for the top headlines or most popular stories. Always check multiple sources and go the extra mile to read content that will round out your worldview. Even when a few topics seem to dominate the headlines, there’s always more news to be covered.
Hirsh Joshi curates news and conducts research as part of the AllSides news team. He has a Left bias.
This piece was reviewed, edited and expanded on by Managing Editor Henry A. Brechter (Center bias), News Editor Micaela Ricaforte (Center bias) and Director of Marketing Julie Mastrine (Lean Right bias).