New Jersey advances ‘Gay Panic’ defense ban

Court gavel


The New Jersey General Assembly unanimously advanced legislation to ban a so-called gay and trans ‘panic’ defense. ‘Gay Panic’ is a legal strategy that blames a victim’s sexuality or gender identity for an aggressor’s violent reaction, up to and including murder.

Such ‘panic’ defenses have been used to acquit dozens of murderers. Mostly recently, a ‘panic’ defense was used by Wilfredo Sanchez, one of the men convicted of stabbing and dismembering Francisco Gonzalez Fuentes in Cliffside Park, NJ. The defense, on appeal for the conviction of the 2011 murder, was unsuccessful.

“I am so pleased to see the Assembly pass today’s important vote to protect LGBTQ New Jerseyans,” said NJ State Senator Vin Gopal, primary Senate sponsor of the bill. “Senator Lagana and I urge the Senate to pass this bill before 2020. We have reached out to the Judiciary Chair to get it posted at the next committee hearing.”

If advanced further, the bill will need to have a hearing before the legislature. Then, if it passes both houses it will head to Governor Phil Murphy for an expected signing into law. If passed into law, New Jersey would become the sixth state to ban the practice this year, and the ninth overall. The other states with ‘panic’ bans are Maine, New York, Hawaii, Nevada, Connecticut, California, Illinois, and Rhode Island.