New Jersey just took a huge step forward in banning the gay panic defence

Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy. (Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for William Hill Race & Sports Bar )

New Jersey is on track to ban the ‘gay panic defence’ that has historically been used to justify the killing of a queer peoples for decades.

Since the early 1960s, defence lawyers across the US have used the idea that a person accused of murdering an LGBT+ person could have that act be justified if the person was in a state of temporary insanity.

The legal strategy, known as the ‘gay panic’ or ‘trans panic’ defences, has been steadily reeled back as attitudes better reflect in favour of LGBT+ people.

Lawyers gunning on winning a jury’s sympathy or lessen a sentence with the defence have been criticised by the community for deploying the defence.

But on Monday, the New Jersey Senate House passed a bill to outlaw the defence. The Senate overwhelmingly approved A1796, according to bill records.

New Jersey poised to ban gay panic defence after Senate House votes in favour. 

On its third reading in the house, it received 38 yeas while a single Republican senator abstained.

It came after the Assembly approved the measure in late November 73-0.

Now the measure will be soon making a pitstop at governor Phil Murphy’s desk for his signature.

Although the measure passed smoothly though the houses, several lawmakers abstained from the vote.

Six members of the Assembly were recorded as not voting on the bill.

This included Republican Assembly members Rob Clifton, Nancy Munoz, and Dave Wolfe, as well as Democrats Paul Moriarty, Gabby Mosquera and Adam Taliaferro.

Moreover, Republican senate judiciary committee member Mike Doherty, a, abstained from voting for the bill in committee.

Moreover, he was is the only recorded member who did not vote for it in the full Senate, records showed.

The bill itself has been in the pipeline since 2014, after former assembly-person Tim Eustace, who is gay, pitched it. Activists even launched a petition to pressure lawmakers to pass it.

Panic defences seemed from now discredited notions from the medical community, with defendants beginning to argue that learning of someone’s queerness spurred them to violence.

At least 18 states in the USA have measures banning gay conversion therapy in some form, including California and Oregon.

Around 55 cities or municipalities, including New York City, prohibit the practice, such as Denver in Colorado, Lakewood in Ohio, and Sheboygan in Wisconsin.