The House Judiciary Committee today passed Representatives Leslie Herod and Matt Soper’s bipartisan bill to ban the use of the gay and trans panic defense. The committee vote was 6-2.
“Telling a crime victim that their sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the violence perpetrated against them is wrong and cruel,” said Rep. Herod, D-Denver. “The gay and trans panic defense should never hold up in court. This defense harms the already vulnerable LGBTQ+ community and holds Colorado back. It’s time to ban this antiquated and discriminatory practice.”
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. HB20-1307 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, Nevada, Illinois, New York, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey 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.