Washington, D.C.‘s city council has voted unanimously to ban the LGBTQ+ panic defense — also referred to as the “gay panic” or “trans panic” defense — from being using in criminal trials heard in the capital city.
The bill was created and named in honor of the late Bella Evangelista and Tony Hunter, two LGBTQ+ murder victims. The 25-year-old Evangelista was a performer and trans woman killed in 2003 by Antoine Jacobs. The two had allegedly had a relationship before Jacobs realized Evangelista was trans; when he found out, he fatally shot her.
In 2008, 37-year-old Tony Hunter, a gay man, was fatally punched in the face was on his way to a gay bar. Evangelista and Hunter’s murderers relied on their victims’ queerness — gender identity and sexual orientation, respectively — as a means to prove their victims were sexually aggressive.
39 states currently allow criminal defendants to use a person’s LGBTQ+ identity — whether their gender identity or sexual orientation — as a way to defend themselves and seek reduced sentences. The defense has caused a lot of controversy, though, and has even been condemned by major legal groups like the American Bar Association.
Karl Racine, the D.C. Attorney General, applauded the council’s decision, as it would “reduce destructive mass incarceration and advance justice for all.”
“I look forward to fully enforcing these laws to ensure that the District is a fairer and more just place for all and to send a clear message that hate has no place here,” said Racine in a statement.
All 13 members of D.C.’s city council voted in favor of the legislation banning LGBTQ+ panic defenses. The bill now goes to the desk of Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has expressed that she will sign it. Once signed, the bill will be sent to Capitol Hill for the required 30-day legislative review by Congress before hopefully being passed into law.