'Cause ya know, it's the victim's fault...

by Shaker Lena

The defense attorney for the alleged killer in the hate-crime murder of Lawrence King argues it's the victim's fault for not conforming to gender norms.

King, who was openly gay and had begun wearing make-up, earrings, and high-heeled boots to his junior high school, had been harassed by other students, including Brandon McInerney, 14, who is charged with shooting King twice in the back the head during an English class shortly after school started. Fellow students said they witnessed confrontations between the two in the days before the shooting, including King's teasing McInerney and telling him that he liked him.

But to hear McInerney's defense attorney tell it, the problem was that King should have been closeted and straight-acting:
[Senior Deputy Public Defender William] Quest said he believes school administrators supported one student expressing himself and his sexuality — King — and ignored how it affected other kids, despite complaints. Cross-dressing isn't a normal thing in adult environments, he said, yet 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds were expected to just accept it and go on.
Now if you've ever been around a courthouse, you'll know that blaming victims, sullying their reputations, and/or claiming they provoked the accused are part of the standard repertoire of the defense, whose job it is to raise doubts. Disappointingly, I've heard comments on various LGBTQ blogs that McInerney's attorney is "just doing his job" and obligated to make the best argument he can for his client. But while the latter is true, there are a variety of arguments that aren't allowed in court because society considers them illegitimate and unacceptable.

If a student killed another student for dressing "differently" because they wore a yarmulke or a head scarf, or a t-shirt with a biblical quote on it, we'd call it for what was: religious bigotry.

If a white student killed a black student for creating a "disruption" simply by attending school, we'd call what it was: racist.

If a teenage boy shot a girl he didn't like because she kept flirting with him, we wouldn't consider that a justifiable provocation.

Society and the law don't consider any of these valid excuses for the accused's actions, or reasons for lesser punishment; in fact, California specifically outlawed the infamous "gay panic" defense in the wake of the public revulsion about its use by the murderers of trans woman Gwen Araujo—a law that Quinn seems to be trying to do an end-run around by claiming it was King who was doing the harassing, when in fact King was just standing up to a bigger, stronger bully. A bully who allegedly decided to put the "uppity faggot" in his place: six feet underground. This wasn't a panic. This wasn't a provoked killing. It was a planned, cold-blooded execution.

Being different shouldn't be a death sentence, and a "back to the closet" defense shouldn't be tolerated.

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