House Committee Passes Bill Banning Gay and Trans Panic Legal Defense

DENVER, CO– The House Committee of Public Health and Human Services today passed Representatives Brianna Titone and Matt Soper’s bipartisan bill to ban the use of the gay and transgender “panic” defense. The bill passed 12-0.

“This is an antiquated and cruel legal defense strategy that should have been abolished a long time ago, “said Rep. Titone, D-Arvada. “The LGBTQ community deserves our support, not our suspicion. As long as we allow biased defenses like this to continue, trans people and the broader LGBTQ population will never truly feel safe, especially black trans women. I’m proud of the work that we did this year to revive this legislation and am proud to see it move forward today.”  

The gay and trans panic defense is a legal tactic that has been used to strengthen a legal defense by playing on the prejudice of jurors. SB20-221 states that evidence about a defendant’s knowledge or discovery of a victim’s gender, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation cannot be asserted as a legal defense constituting ‘sudden heat of passion’ in a criminal case. 

If this bill is signed into law, Colorado would join California, Hawaii, Nevada, Illinois, New York, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Washington as states that have banned the gay and trans panic defense strategy. In 2018, Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) and House Representative Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) introduced legislation to ban the gay and trans panic defense at the federal level.

According to the FBI’s 2018 hate crime statistics, 1,404 hate crimes perpetrated in 2018 were based on sexual orientation. Of these offenses, 59.8 percent were classified as anti-gay male and 25 percent were classified as anti-LGBTQ bias. According to this FBI data, in Colorado in 2018, there were 123 hate crimes reported and of those 24 were related to sexual orientation and three of them were related to gender identity.