No defense

Washington state bans gay and trans “panic” defense for homicide

The legislation is named teenager Nikki Kuhnhausen, who was killed last year
The legislation is named teenager Nikki Kuhnhausen, who was killed last year (Photo: Facebook)

Lawmakers in Washington state have overwhelmingly passed legislation banning the so-called “gay panic” defense. This is when someone accused of a murder could claim the sexuality or gender identity of their victim was partly to blame for their actions.

Although commonly called “gay panic defense”, it has been used across the LGBTQ spectrum. Washington’s legislation is named the Nikki Kuhnhausen Act. It’s been named after a 17-year-old trans woman, who was killed last year.

Related: Gay panic defense banned in New Jersey

The suspect in her killing has pled not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and malicious harassment, with his trial set for July. He told police that when Kuhnhausen told him she was trans, it made him “really uncomfortable” and “disturbed him”.

Washington state Senate approved the new legislation by 46-3. It was approved previously in the house by 90-5.

The legislation will now go to Gov. Jay Inslee for signing. This is expected to happen in the next few weeks.

Among those lobbying for the legislation in Washington was Kuhnhausen’s mother, Lisa Kuhnhausen-Woods, 52, who lives in the state.

Nikki Kuhnhausen was reported missing on June 10, 2019. Her body was eventually found in a forest in early December.

Related: Trans teen’s alleged murderer gets shockingly low bail

Her mom told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “Nikki didn’t deserve this … it was a hate crime. I don’t feel there’s any justification in the panic defense.

“It’s not going to help Nikki’s case but it will help future families. There are other beautiful transgender children out there that need to be protected.”

Washington’s move comes after nine other US states implemented similar legislation: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey New York and Rhode Island.