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The “gay or trans panic” defense is no longer a usable defense in New York homicide cases: It was banned by New York lawmakers through a bill on Wednesday.
The bill bans a murderer from justifying murder on the grounds that they were so disturbed by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
“The ban on the ‘gay and trans panic’ legal defense just passed! With the enactment of this measure we are sending this noxious legal defense strategy to the dustbin of history where it belongs. This is an important win for LGBTQ people everywhere,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) wrote on Twitter, along with a statement regarding the ban.
The ban on the 'gay and trans panic' legal defense just passed!— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) June 19, 2019
With the enactment of this measure we are sending this noxious legal defense strategy to the dustbin of history where it belongs.
This is an important win for LGBTQ people everywhere. pic.twitter.com/xMpXZfvnDT
In 2013, a transgender woman, Islan Nettles, was murdered by a man named James Dixon after he found out she was transgender. Dixon used the “gay and trans” panic defense and only received 12 years in prison. Nettles’ family said that Dixon would have received a harsher sentence if he wasn’t able to use the defense, according to the New York Times.
Dixon’s case is known as one of the most notorious “gay and trans panic” cases in New York.
People are celebrating the obvious win for human rights.
Bigotry and hatred disguised as “panic” is not a defense. Great progress being made with this bill.— Brandon Russell (@AwesomeBran) June 20, 2019
“I’m glad that New York is sending a message to prosecutors, to defense attorneys, juries and judges that a victim’s L.G.B.T.Q. identity can’t be weaponized” https://t.co/ObketkqzCO— Nicole Zelniker (@nicolezelniker) June 20, 2019
Some believe it has taken too long to pass such a common-sense bill.
I'd have thought this was banned in New York state already...— Let's Draw Cassandra Cain (@drawin_casscain) June 20, 2019
Over 20 years after the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, it was far past time we banned the so-called “gay panic defense” here in New York. I am thankful to my colleagues in Albany for getting this done and helping to protect LGBTQ New Yorkers. https://t.co/pISgdYAbPX— NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson (@NYCSpeakerCoJo) June 20, 2019
This was still a thing?? In the city that birth the gay rights movement??— TheAlexisPierre (@ThePierreAlexis) June 20, 2019
Just now??— Emer Hughes (@emerhughes4) June 19, 2019
One Twitter user highlighted the inequality of the original law by pointing out how a straight panic defense would never have flown.
Good. It should've been accepted as a defence anyway. It should be banned across all states. I mean, 'straight panic' wouldn't be accepted as a defence for lgbtq so why should straight people be allowed to use 'gay panic' as a defence?— Kira (@Light_Yagami128) June 20, 2019
Many were astonished to discover that “gay and trans panic” was even a real defense in the first place.
That's real?! Who tf came up with a stupid ass defense like that. pic.twitter.com/3ytGUQtf7Y— Sl0th (@SlothNF) June 20, 2019
Nvm. I constantly forget what country I’m in.— Yea, iight (@RoyDaRappah) June 20, 2019
Isn't murder, murder no matter what the circumstances?— laurie (@hyers_laurie) June 20, 2019
I really don’t see how this is a real defense that works.— AlaskanGunNut (@AK_GunNut) June 20, 2019
People found the defense so unbelievable that they thought this had to be a symbolic ruling. Yet, this ruling only makes New York the sixth state to ban such a defense. The five other states that have already banned the gay panic defense are California, Illinois, Rhode Island, Nevada, and Connecticut. That’s not even 10% of the U.S.: We still have a long way to go.
Hardly symbolic for folks like Islan Nettles. This defense has been invoked in NYS within the last few years. Look it up.— Hip to the game (@OutCameTheLotus) June 20, 2019
The majority of people are simply glad that LGBTQ people are just a little bit safer.
Thank you so much! As an openly and proud gay man, this makes me so happy.— Wonder Boy (@myendisnow) June 20, 2019
“As long as I, as a gay man, can be blamed for my own murder or assault, I personally will never have equality under the law,” Seth Rosen, director of development at National LGBT Bar Association @huffpostqueer #lgbtrightsarehumanrights https://t.co/q4Uy2ZM26C— hollylynchny (@hollylynchny) June 20, 2019
- Nicholas Sparks tried to ban an LGBTQ club from his school
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- 2 trans women killed within 3 months in the same neighborhood
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Siobhan Ball is a historian, archivist, and journalist. She also writes for Autostraddle and bi.org