Community leaders rallied at the scene of the crime at Roosevelt Avenue and 90th Street in Jackson Heights last Wednesday demanding an end to the use of “gay panic” as a justification for committing a crime.
“We are outraged that we have lost another member of our community due to hate and homophobia,” said Jocelyn Mendoza, a transgender resident of Queens. “This incident shows how homophobia and transphobia can affect anyone, whether they identify as LGBTQ or not.”
On September 16, Bronx resident Steven Torres, 22, stabbed Orozco to death at around 1:30 p.m. while the victim’s wife was at a doctor’s appointment. Torres later told investigators he felt threatened by alleged homosexual advances from Orozco.
“This horrific hate crime that occurred here on this corner is something that cannot go without community response,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm. “If Steven Torres or anyone else out there believes that citing their victim’s sexuality somehow justifies their crimes, they are sorely mistaken.”
Dromm, who is gay, demanded an end to the use of homophobia as a defense for violent crimes. “Gay panic defense is totally unacceptable,” he said.
In August, the American Bar Association voted to curtail the use of this type of defense. The resolution encourages state and local governments to pass legislation that bars this strategy from being used in the courtroom.
“We have seen the gay panic defense used time and time again to justify the action of these assailants,” said Dromm. “That is totally unacceptable.”
Torres is being charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime.
Torres also admitted to stabbing a coworker at a Greenwich Village construction site last month, also for blowing him kisses. The coworker did not initially file a police report, so Torres was never charged.
“This year alone, we have seen an inordinate number of hate crimes perpetrated against members of the LGBTQ community and other parts of the city,” said Comptroller John Liu. “A hate crime against anyone is a hate crime against all of us.”
There have been over 70 reported anti-gay crimes this year, of which more than 40 were assaults and at least six resulted in felonies.
“There is absolutely no justification for assaulting an innocent person just because you believe they may identify as LGBT,” said Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras. “No one should have to bury their loved ones over senseless crimes.”