‘Gay Panic or Transgender Panic Defense’ Bill Passes Out of House Judiciary Committee

Denver, CO — On March 3rd, the Colorado House Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 to pass HB20-1307 onto a second reading in the full House. One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans, released the following statements:

“From the beginning, this bill has been a bi-partisan effort, and we have seen that collaboration across the aisle continue today. This is about people’s safety here in Colorado, not any political or religious ideology. We need to ban the gay and trans panic defense to hold violent offenders accountable for their attacks on members of the LGBTQ community.”
– Daniel Ramos, One Colorado Executive Director

“Gay and transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, have been targets of violent crimes throughout history. We need to do everything in our power to end these vicious attacks. Banning the gay and trans panic defense will send a message that hatred and bigotry are grounds for further punishment, not excuses for violent crimes.”
– Representative Leslie Herod (D-Denver), House co-prime sponsor of HB20-1307 and Chair of the Black Caucus

“When the DAs approached me about working on this bill in the House, I was stunned to discover that our current laws allow someone to murder a gay or transgender person and use the shock of finding out as an excuse for their violent actions. I believe in personal responsibility, and a perpetrator of murder or violent assault shouldn’t be able to use the victim’s sexual or gender identity as a defense to remove all culpability of the perpetrator’s actions. It’s time to abolish gay panic and transgender panic defense!”
– Representative Matt Soper (R-Delta), House co-prime sponsor of HB20-1037

Co-prime sponsors of HB20-1307 are Representative Leslie Herod (D-Denver), Representative Matt Soper (R-Delta), Senator Jeff Bridges (D-Arapahoe), and Senator Jack Tate (R-Centennial). 

The gay and trans panic defense is a legal strategy that cites a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity as the causal factor for a defendant’s violent reaction — including murder. In 2013, the American Bar Association (ABA) unanimously approved a resolution to urge governments to ban the use of this tactic, which resulted in ten states banning the defense.

One of the most recognized cases that employed the gay and trans panic defense was that of Matthew Shepard. In 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old college student, was beaten to death by two men in Wyoming. The men attempted to use the defense to excuse their actions. Despite widespread public protest, the defense is still being used today.

In July of 2008, 18-year-old Angie Zapata from Greeley, Colorado met 31-year-old Allen Andrade and they spent three days together, during which they had at least one sexual encounter. When Andrade discovered that Zapata was transgender, he viciously beat her with a fire extinguisher. Upon his arrest, Andrade said he thought he had “killed it.” Andrade was found guilty of both first-degree murder and a hate crime, and was sentenced to life in prison.

The defense has been banned in ten states, being banned in California in 2014, Illinois in 2017, Rhode Island in 2018, Maine in 2019, New York in 2019, Nevada in 2019, Connecticut in 2019, New Jersey in 2020, and Washington in 2020. Similar legislation is currently pending in Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. 

In 2018, Representative Joe Kennedy of the U.S. House and Senator Edward Markey also proposed a nationwide ban, which One Colorado signed on as a supportive coalition partner.