State Watch

NY lawmakers vote to ban 'gay panic' defense in murder cases

New York state lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill to ban the use of "gay panic" or "trans panic" defenses in murder cases. 

In such defenses, defendants justify their crimes by saying the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity caused an extreme emotional reaction. The new legislation aims to make it so that "a non-violent sexual advance or the discovery of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity does not constitute a 'reasonable explanation or excuse'" to commit a crime.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) tweeted celebrating the bill's passage on Wednesday.  

"With the enactment of this measure we are sending this noxious legal defense strategy to the dustbin of history where it belongs," Cuomo wrote. "This is an important win for LGBTQ people everywhere."

State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D) told The Hill on Wednesday that the bill's passage was "extremely emotional" for him as an LGBTQ lawmaker.

"I think it sends a strong message that homophobia isn't tolerated, not just in our society but also in our courtrooms," said Hoylman, who is gay. "One of the most deplorable aspects of the gay-trans panic defense is that it treats LGBTQ people as less than other members of our society."

Glennda Testone, the executive director of New York LGBT Community Center, praised the passage in a statement.

"The Center wholeheartedly applauds New York State lawmakers for passing a ban on the gay/trans 'panic' defense...ensuring that LGBTQ New Yorkers who are victims of hate crimes will no longer be blamed for the violence committed against them," said Testone. "This legislation makes it clear that homophobia and transphobia cannot be used in our courts to justify discriminatory violence." 

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