Nevada bans trans, gay panic defense

shadow knows
jmtimages via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
shadow knows
jmtimages via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Nevada has become the fourth state to prohibit using the “trans panic” and “gay panic” defense in court.

Senate Bill 97, which was signed into law Tuesday, bans people from using a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity as a defense for committing a violent crime against them.

Brooke Maylath with the Reno-based Transgender Allies Group said around the country people have gotten as little as probation for killing gay or trans people for nonaggressive, nonsexual interactions.

“In a different world, if women were to respond that way, there wouldn’t be a man alive,” Maylath said. “It’s a vile and disgusting defense that sends a message to the community that homosexual and transgender people are subhuman, and it’s perfectly OK to be incensed and go into a murderous rage.”

Briana Escamilla, the state director for the Human Rights Campaign, said banning the defense is long past due.

“This so-called gay or transgender panic defense is based in prejudice and should never be available in any American courtroom,” she said via email. “These ‘defenses’ send the destructive message that LGBTQ victims are less worthy of justice and their attackers justified in their violence. Every victim of violent crime and their families deserve equal justice, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We’re grateful that Gov. Steve Sisolak quickly signed this legislation into law.”

The legislation, proposed by the Nevada Youth Legislature, was voted out of the Senate 19-2 on April 16 and out of the Assembly 36-3 on May 7.

“I was proud to sign into law a bill to ban the discriminatory and bigoted gay and trans ‘panic’ defense tactic, which can be used to excuse violent hate crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals,” Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a statement. “Amid a disturbing rise in hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community around the world, Nevada is reaffirming our commitment to justice and equality for all individuals.”

While it was mostly supported by lawmakers, it did get pushback from the Clark County Public Defenders Offices and the Nevada District Attorney’s Association — two groups that have generally disagreed on legislation during the session. Both groups worried the legislation would have unintended consequences, including compromising a defendant’s right to a fair trial and due process by eliminating defense options and their “right to present a defense.”

Maylath said California was the first state to ban the defense and Rhode Island and Illinois followed. New Jersey, Washington State, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia have all introduced various versions of legislation.

“We don’t want special treatment,” Maylath said. “We just want to be able to walk down the street without the fear of being murdered. We just want to be able to interact with other people without them freaking out and killing us.”

Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.

1 COMMENT

  1. It’s so good to know that there are people out there fighting to protect people like me. Thank you, Nevada – there government, people, and organizations that worked on this – for taking this firm and clear stance on protecting the queer community.

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