Colorado has become the 11th US state to ban the ‘gay and 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.
On Monday (13 July), Gov. Jared Polis – the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States – signed the new law at the LGBTQ Center in Denver, where he described the ‘panic’ defence as “absurd,” “oudated” and “insidious”.
“We’ve come a long way here in Colorado since our days as the Hate State,” he said in a statement. “We really went from a place where discrimination was legalized in the 1990s to where we are today, where Colorado is a leader.”
Colorado follows in the footsteps of California, Illinois, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, New York, New Jersey and Washington in banning ‘gay and trans panic’ defences.
Amanda Gall, a sexual assault resource prosecutor with the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council, praised the historic decision, saying: “This bill is going to make it possible to have safer and healthier communities for all in Colorado.
“When somebody is targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender, we want to make sure that that victim has a fair day in court, and this bill is going to help us ensure that there aren’t biased arguments or bigoted arguments in our courtrooms here in Colorado.
“I think it’s long overdue, frankly. That we’re the eleventh state just points out that the American Bar Association is correct when they say every state should do this. I hope other states follow.”
Daniel Ramos, the executive director of LGBTQ+ organisation One Colorado, said “no one in Colorado, or across the country, across the world, should be targeted simply for who they are, who they love, how they worship, any of those issues.”
He continued: “Hopefully, a federal ban on the gay and trans panic defense will be in our future.”
Polis also signed several other LGBTQ+ friendly bills into law, including one that simplifies the requirements for people under the age of 18 to change gender on their birth certificates.
The Denver Post reported: “Another allows pharmacists to prescribe HIV-prevention medications and requires insurance carriers to cover them. By eliminating the need to visit a doctor, the bill is expected to increase access to such medications, including Truvada, especially in rural parts of the state.”