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Colorado becomes the eleventh state to ban the horrifying ‘gay panic’ murder defence. Only 39 more to go

Emma Powys Maurice July 14, 2020
Colorado becomes the eleventh state to ban gay panic murder defence

Governor of Colorado Jared Polis at his inauguration (Rick T. Wilking/Getty)

Colorado has become the 11th US state to outlaw the horrifying ‘gay panic’ legal defence used to justify the murder of LGBT+ people.

The controversial legal strategy claims that discovering a victim’s sexuality or gender identity causes the defendant to suffer from a state of temporary insanity, leading to violence and murder.

Unfortunately it still is a valid legal defence in the vast majority of the US, with the exception of California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey New York, Washington and Rhode Island.

Colorado has now followed suit thanks to governor Jared Polis, the first openly gay man in the country to be elected governor.

“We’ve come a long way here in Colorado since our days as the Hate State,” he said as he signed the bill, SB20-221, on Monday (July 13).

“We really went from a place where discrimination was legalised in the 1990s to where we are today, where Colorado is a leader.”

The bill states that such justifications for violent actions appeal to irrational fears and hatred, and that legally sanctioned discrimination against sexual orientation or gender identity must end.

As well as Polis, the 22 elected district attorneys also supported the legislation.

Its passing was celebrated by many LGBT+ advocates including Amanda Gall, a sexual assault resource prosecutor with the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council.

“I think it’s long overdue, frankly. That we’re the eleventh state just points out that the American Bar Association is correct when they say every state should do this. I hope other states follow,” she told KOAA News.

She explained that although the ‘gay panic’ defence was used infrequently, it did still occur – and once a person has been acquitted in Colorado, regardless of the defence, the case can be sealed.

“This bill is going to make it possible to have safer and healthier communities for all in Colorado,” she said.

“When somebody is targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender, we want to make sure that that victim has a fair day in court, and this bill is going to help us ensure that there aren’t biased arguments or bigoted arguments in our courtrooms here in Colorado.”

SB20-221 was one of several LGBT+ protection bills signed by Polis, including legislation granting coverage for HIV/AIDS prevention medications and a new process for getting government documents for one’s gender identity.

More: Colorado, gay panic defence, Jared Polis

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