Rights & Democracy fully supports HB 128, a bill which would ban the LGBTQ+ Panic Defense – using a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity to legitimize a crime. However, we are deeply troubled by Sen. Jeanette White’s callous use of stereotypes and thoughtless tropes when questioning the bill.  

As a grassroots organization working to ensure that communities most impacted by decades of bad policy and injustice are truly represented in places of power, RAD expects our legislators to approach their work with the gravitas and self-awareness such decision making positions confer. The senator’s subsequent apology demonstrated a failure to grasp both the issues at stake in HB 128 as well as the broader impacts of a public official using biased and harmful language.

“At this very moment, when we are still grappling with overt and covert racism, and violence against people of color in this state and nation, this kind of dangerous rhetoric has massive implications for all Vermonters. It is our understanding the legislature previously held anti-bias trainings which we once again see had little impact on some of the membership. We cannot minimize or disregard the impact of what the  senator said on the lives and safety of Black men in Vermont,” said Kiah Morris, RAD’s VT Movement Politics Director.

RAD strongly recommends that Senator White, and any other legislators who fail to understand the full implications of this incident, seek long-term and comprehensive anti-racist, equity and inclusion training. In order for us to take the steps necessary to build a just and equitable future where everyone in our state can thrive, it is clear that this must be a baseline requirement for all public offices in Vermont.