Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Daniel ODonnell today announced the Assembly has passed legislation to end the use of gay and trans panic defenses. Under current law, the use of the extreme emotional disturbance defense, in some instances, can be used to reduce a murder charge. With this critical change in law, defendants can no longer seek to reduce a murder charge based on discovery of the victims sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression or sex assigned at birth (A.8375, ODonnell).
It is unconscionable that a victims sexual orientation or gender identity could be used to reduce the penalty for an individuals violent behavior, said Speaker Heastie. This legislation ensures that an individual who commits murder based on discriminatory notions will not be able to use such discriminatory motives as a defense to obtain a reduced charge for violence against a member of the LGBTQ community.
Homophobia or transphobia is not a reasonable or acceptable excuse to assault or murder an individual, said Assemblymember ODonnell. Allowing this disgraceful manipulation of our justice system is an affront to the hard-fought rights of gay and trans New Yorkers.
Under current law, a defendant charged with killing a gay, lesbian or transgender person can claim that their actions were triggered by an extreme emotional disturbance upon realizing the victims sexual orientation or gender identity. Todays legislation would clarify that the discovery of an individuals sexual orientation or gender identity cannot be raised as an affirmative defense for murder to reduce the defendants culpability.
In August 2013, the American Bar Association passed a resolution urging state governments to take legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of so-called gay panic and trans panic defenses. Such defenses effectively excuse or mitigate serious violent crimes on the grounds that the victims sexual orientation or gender identity played a role in causing the crime to be committed.