Washington Passes Ban on Gay and Trans Panic

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Olivia Frank, Reporter

      Lawmakers in Washington have passed a measure banning homicide defendants from claiming a panic brought on by a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Following the ban in Washington, nine other states including Illinois have legistlatively banned the use of gay or transgender panic as a legal defense.

       The measure is named after Nikki Kuhnhausen, a transgender teen who was killed in 2019. Kuhnhausen was only 17 years old when she disappeared in early June and her remains were discovered in December. A Vancouver man has since been charged with second-degree murder and malicious harassment. Authorities say that the teenager was strangled after her killer learned she was transgender. He has pleaded not guilty to the girl’s murder. There was no immediate evidence as to if he will attempt to use a “panic” defense. 

      The bill passed the House of Representatives earlier this Monday on a 90-5 vote. The bill blocks a defendant from using a defense based on disclosure or discovery of the victim’s actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation. It prevents a claim of “diminished capacity” because the defendant did not fully comprehend the nature and gravity of the alleged crime. The measure was passed by the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 46-3.

The measure was passed by California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Main, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. In the last year, 26 transgender people were killed last year, a majority of whom were women of color.