NY Legislature Prohibits Gay and Trans Panic Defenses

The Legislation Prohibit Disclosure of a Victims Gender Identity or Sexuality in Defenses of Murder

Today, the Assembly and Senate passed legislation ending the so-called “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses in court, shepherded to passage by its sponsors, New York State Assembly Member Daniel J. O’Donnell and State Senator Brad Hoylman.

Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell said, “As a public defender I value the importance of a defendant’s control over how they argue their innocence. However, it has long troubled me that admission of a hate crime was regarded as an applicable defense to murder.Sexual orientation and gender identity should never be used as excuses for violence and the very nature of gay and trans panic defenses ground themselves in bigotry, hatred, or fear toward the LGBTQ community. I thank my colleagues in government for passing this legislation, in particular Senator Brad Hoylman who has worked on this issue with me for nearly six years.”

The push to ban the use of these defenses comes during LGBTQ Pride Month, the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and New York’s turn to host World Pride. It also comes at a time where the federal administration has been eliminating protections for the LGBTQ community, and when murders oftransgender individuals, in particular trans women of color, are occurring with alarming frequency.

New York joins six other states in taking legislative action to limit or prohibit the use of gay and trans panic defenses including California, Illinois, Rhode Island, Nevada, Hawaii, and Connecticut. In August 2013, the American Bar Association approved a resolution urging state governments to take legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of so-called "gay panic" and "trans panic" defenses. The Governor is expected to sign the legislation.