New Jersey

N.J. lawmaker introduces bill to prohibit ‘gay panic’ defense in murder cases

Tim Eustace

Tim Eustace

TRENTON, N.J. — A New Jersey state lawmaker has introduced legislation that would prohibit the so called “gay panic” defense from being used to escape murder charges.

Tim Eustace

Tim Eustace

Currently, New Jersey law permits a defendant to be charged with manslaughter – a lesser charge than murder – if, among other things, the crime “is committed in the heat of passion resulting from a reasonable provocation.”

Under the proposed legislation, a “provocation” can not be interpreted as reasonable if it is based on “the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the homicide victim’s actual or perceived gender identity or expression,” including “circumstances in which the victim made an unwanted, non-forcible romantic or sexual advance toward the actor, or if the victim and actor dated or had a romantic or sexual relationship.”

The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-Bergen), says even though it’s unclear if such a defense has ever been used in New Jersey, he wants “to make sure that we’re paying attention to things before they happen,” reports

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Eustace is the Legislature’s second openly gay member.

New Jersey would not be the first state to ban such defenses if the bill becomes law. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a similar bill in September.

Last year, the American Bar Association urged governments to curtail the use of gay panic defenses, saying such defenses represent “the notion that LGBT lives are worth less than other lives.”

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