New Jersey legislature votes to ban the “Gay Panic” defense

Court gavel

The bill passed both houses and Governor Murphy said he will sign the bill

The New Jersey Assembly and State Senate overwhelmingly passed a ban on the so called “Gay Panic” defense. The bill passed both houses of the State legislature. In the Senate it passed with a 39-0 vote. In the New Jersey State Assembly, it was supported by a vote of 73-0.

The bill is now on the desk of Governor Phil Murphy. He is expected to sign the bill which will make the Garden State the ninth to ban the practice.

“Gay Panic” is a defense tactic used by defendants accused of crimes against LGBT people. It uses the premise that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity upset an aggressor so much that they committed a violent crime against that person. The two men convicted in Wyoming of murdering Matthew Shepard in 1998 attempted to use such a defense.

“Make no mistake, the ‘Panic’ defense is flat-out discriminatory legal malpractice, and no one should ever be excused from murder because their victim is gay or transgender,” Christian Fuscarino, the executive director for Garden State Equality, said in a statement. “As hate crimes against LGBTQ New Jerseyans continue to rise and transgender people are murdered in the streets, it’s more imperative that we ensure our criminal justice system protects LGBTQ people equally—full stop. When this ban becomes law, New Jersey will send an unequivocal message that we fully value the lives and dignity of LGBTQ people.”