Metro Weekly

Washington becomes tenth state to ban gay or trans panic defense

Bill now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature into law

Washington State Capitol – Photo: Tradnor, via Wikimedia.

A bill approved by Washington State lawmakers to ban the use of a defense using a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity to justify violent actions is headed to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee (D) for his signature into law.

Last week, the Washington State Senate approved a bill banning the gay or trans panic defense on a bipartisan 46-3 vote, following a 90-5 vote by the House of Representatives earlier this month.

The measure prohibits a criminal defendant accused of murder, assault, or other violent actions from arguing “diminished capacity” — a defense strategy based on the idea that a victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity was so upsetting that it led the accused to overreact, blinding them to the gravity and the consequences of their actions.

Currently, nine other states ban the use of gay or transgender panic as a legal defense. 

The Washington State bill is named after Nikki Kuhnhausen, a transgender teenager who was killed last year after she met an older man and arranged a rendezvous with him after he offered to buy her a phone. Friends say Kuhnhausen had been texting a man on a friend’s phone just prior to disappearing in the early morning hours of June 6, 2019.

Kuhnhausen’s remains were later discovered on December 7, 2019 on a steep, densely wooded embankment near Larch Mountain, in a remote part of northeast Clark County. Autopsy results indicate she had been strangled to death.

The suspect in that case, 25-year-old David Bogdanov, has since pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and malicious harassment, which is considered a hate crime in Washington State, reports The Columbian.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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