Gopal Bill Banning "Gay Panic Defense" Advances in Assembly

Joining other states who have enacted or considered a ban on the use of ‘gay or trans panic’ legal strategies in criminal cases, legislation sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal cleared an Assembly panel on Monday. The bill (A-1796) would prohibit the use of so-called “gay panic” defenses for the commission of murder.

"Members of the LGBTQ community deserve protection from bigotry and hate - and the so-called "gay panic" or "trans panic" defense has no place in our courts," said Gopal. "It's long past time we made sure that no LGBTQ person has to fear for their lives because of their sexuality or gender identity."

Current law provides that a homicide, which would otherwise be murder, is reduced to manslaughter if the jury finds that the homicide was committed “in the heat of passion” resulting from a "reasonable provocation.”

The legislation, heard before the Assembly Judiciary Committee, intends to prevent a defendant from seeking the reduction of a murder charge to manslaughter committed in the heat of passion when allegedly provoked by the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the homicide victim’s actual or perceived gender identity or expression, or affectional or sexual orientation.

A provoked heat of passion manslaughter is a crime of the second degree punishable by five to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $150,000, or both; while murder is a crime of the first degree, punishable by a term of imprisonment for a period ranging from 30 years to life, depending upon the circumstances of the act, a fine of up to $200,000, or both.

Seven (7) states- New York, Hawaii, California, Rhode Island, Illinois, Nevada, and Connecticut- have signed into law similar legislation. The legislation would take effect immediately after signing.