The ‘gay/trans panic’ defense – by which someone accused of a murder could claim the sexuality or gender identity of their victim was partly to blame for their actions – has been made illegal in Oregon.
Governor Kate Brown has signed Senate Bill 704 into law on Sunday (May 23).
It becomes the 14th state to do so, following in the footsteps: California, Illinois, Rhode Island, Nevada, Hawaii, Maine, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Washington, Colorado, Virginia, and Vermont.
Washington DC has also enacted legislation banning the defense.
The so-called ‘panic’ defense is used by some people who have murdered members of the LGBTQ community.
Those charged with such crimes will sometimes say their victim made a pass at them and they reacted violently in response. By doing so, they have sometimes seen a murder charge reduced to manslaughter.
Advocates have long argued that this shifts some of the blame for the crime to the victim, or affords them less justice than if they had been heterosexual or cis.
Related: Gay Portland
Senate Bill 704 was passed unanimously by the Oregon House of Representatives on May 13. State Rep. Karin Power (D-Milwaukie), who carried the SB 704, said at the time, “The passage of this bill will send a strong message that the perpetrator of a second-degree murder will not be able to excuse the crime simply based on who their victim is.”
A huge win for our community and an honor to carry SB 704 on the House floor to UNANIMOUS passage today! Thank you @basicrights for your leadership and thank you to the many LGBTQ Oregonians who spoke up and fought for this bill. #orleg #orpol https://t.co/P1s940Qa4v
— Karin Power (@karin_power) May 13, 2021
LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign was amongst those to welcome Governor Brown signing the legislation.
🥳 Good news! @OregonGovBrown has signed into law a bill ending the so-called LGBTQ “panic defense.”
Oregon becomes the 14th state to get this done.
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) May 23, 2021
Similar legislation is also currently being debated in New Mexico, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Massachusetts.