Washington is the tenth US state to ban the ‘gay and trans panic’ defence

Cecilie Johnsen

The bill will be named after Nikki Kuhnhausen, a trans teen murdered last year in the state.

Washington has overwhelmingly passed a ban on the ‘gay and trans panic’ defence in murder trials. The bill passed in the state’s Senate by 46-3 votes, reports The Seattle Times.

The bill is named after 17-year-old Nikki Kuhnhausen, a trans teen who was murdered in Washington last year. The man charged with her murder has pleaded not guilty, although it’s unknown if he intends to apply for a ‘trans panic’ defence.

The controversial legal strategy, which is mostly used in assault or murder cases, allows people to defend themselves by claiming they were driven to violence after discovering their victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Annette Cleveland, a Clark County Democrat praised the passing of the bill following the “violent and abominable killing” of Kuhnhausen.

In a statement, she said: “By all accounts, Nikki would be alive today if not for a homophobia-based assault on her life.

“And, I suspect, so would others who have been similarly victimised.”

She added: “The terrible truth is that vicious assaults have been perpetrated against transgender people, as well as others in the LGBTQ community, for far too long. This bill is a start. It is long overdue, and we must still do more.”

Ted Eytan via Flickr

Currently only California, Illinois, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, New York, and New Jersey have bans on the defence, with New Jersey’s passing in January of this year.

Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director for Garden State Equality, said: “Make no mistake, the ‘panic’ defence is flat-out discriminatory legal malpractice, and no one should ever be excused from murder because their victim is gay or transgender.

“As hate crimes against LGBTQ New Jerseyans continue to rise and trans people are murdered across the nation, it’s more imperative than ever that we ensure our criminal justice system protects LGBTQ people equally — full stop.

“Thank you to Governor Murphy for signing this ban into law and sending an unequivocal message that we fully value the lives and dignity of LGBTQ people in New Jersey.”

La’Nae Grant, a trans advocate from East Orange in New Jersey, celebrated the moment by saying: “Transgender women of colour are victims to murder, violence, and harassment every day of our lives simply for living authentically as ourselves.

“We deserve to live with dignity and safety in our communities. Knowing that the ‘panic’ defence is banned in New Jersey is another victory and moment of empowerment for black trans women like myself, but there’s still more work to do for our community.”

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