New York is set to become the sixth state to ban the use of a “gay and trans panic” defense in a criminal case.
Both the state’s assembly and senate approved legislation Wednesday that would ensure people who attack or kill a gay person cannot beat the charge by arguing they panicked because of their victim’s sexuality.
Under current law, defendants can attempt to excuse violent attacks by arguing they were under extreme emotional distress. The bill states the so-called “gay panic” defense cannot be considered a “reasonable explanation” for a violent crime.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he will sign the bill.
“With the enactment of this measure we are sending this noxious legal defense strategy to the dustbin of history where it belongs,” Cuomo tweeted Wednesday. “This is an important win for LGBTQ people everywhere.”
One of the most well-known cases invoking the now-banned defense was the trial in the murder of Islan Nettles, who was beaten to death in Harlem in 2013 after James Dixon discovered she was a transgender woman, NBC News reported.
At the 2016 trial, Dixon attempted to justify his violence by arguing Nettles provoked him. After accepting a deal, Dixon was convicted of first-degree manslaughter and served 12 years.
“In banning the gay and trans panic defense, New York is sending a message to prosecutors, to defense attorneys, juries and judges that a victim’s LGBTQ identity can’t be weaponized,” state Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat who wrote the state Senate version of the bill, told NBC News.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.