Last week, Luther L. Thomas and Frederick L. Missick were arrested in connection with the May beating of two transgender women on Atlanta's public transit system.
In an interview with Atlanta's WSB-TV, Thomas seems to be invoking a "gay panic" or "trans panic" defense in his explanation of the night's events, saying the two women were hitting on Thomas and his friend, leading them to lash out physically.
"I don't hate gay people at all. That's not in my character at all, but when you are a gay guy and you come on to a straight guy, and I tell you that I don't go that way, then just let it be," Thomas told WSB-TV, referring to the two trans women as "gay guys," and using male pronouns to reference the women throughout.
"These guys, they came on to me," Thomas said in the interview. "Even the one that looked exactly like a female said she like guys with dreads. He's calling me the 'n word' and then saying, 'y'all better get him.' [They were] getting closer and closer."
At that point in the incident, Thomas acknowledged that he escalated the altercation, kicking one of the women in the stomach, later punching her in the face.
"I hate that it did happen," says Thomas. "I hate that I lost my temper. If I could do it all over again, I probably would have moved to another car or got off the train or something."
Last year, the American Bar Association passed a resolution asking lawmakers to reject "gay panic" and "trans panic" defenses, in which someone accused of attacking an LGBT individual claims they engaged in violent action as a result of discomfort brought on by the victim's gay or trans status, often pointed to alleged unwanted sexual advances from the LGBT person.
A California bill banning this defense in court is currently before the State Senate, after passing the Assembly with a bipartisan vote. Georgia, however, has no such law. Additionally, because Thomas has only been charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, his attempt to justify his actions may be legally unnecessary.
Watch WSB-TV's report below: