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'Gay Panic' Defense Ban Back on Track in New Hampshire

'Gay Panic' Defense Ban Back on Track in New Hampshire

NH capitol building

A bipartisan bill eliminating use of the controversial tactic was pulled last week over objections by some lawmakers.

Lawmakers in New Hampshire have agreed on a new version of a bill to ban the use of the so-called gay panic defense by defendants accused of murder in the state. A previous version of the bill was pulled at the last hour over objections by mostly Republican lawmakers that it would have eliminated the use of provocation or self-defense by defendants accused of lesser crimes.

Introduced by Independent state Rep. Shaun Filliauilt, HB315 had received bipartisan support in both legislative bodies but was pulled last week over objections by some lawmakers. While there have been no known uses of the gay panic defense in New Hampshire, Filliauilt indicated he wanted to preemptively eliminate the defense.

“This bill will eliminate the problem before this defense is used in New Hampshire,” he said, according to the Sentinel Source.

The amended bill would change state law to find that a defense of provocation is “not objectively reasonable if it resulted from the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the victim’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression, sex, or sexual orientation, including under circumstances in which the victim made an unwanted nonforcible romantic or sexual advance towards the defendant, or if the defendant and victim dated or had a romantic or sexual relationship.”

The amended text also declares that the proposed law would not “preclude the jury from considering all relevant facts to determine whether the defendant was in fact provoked for purposes of establishing subjective provocation.”

Republican state Rep. Robert Lynn had expressed issues with the mitigation of violent crime based upon provocation, not with the prospect of banning the gay panic defense.

“This would do away with that, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with eliminating the gay panic defense,” Lynn, a former state Supreme Court chief justice, said at the time according to local television station WMUR. “It would change 500 years of law, and I don’t think that’s what anybody intended.”

Other lawmakers expressed concern the new law would limit a person’s right to self-defense. After some wrangling, the new amended text eliminated these concerns by limiting the scope of the bill.

“We limited it to homicide, where it belonged,” state Rep. Terry Roy, R-Deerfield said according to WMUR. “It was earlier in another section that would have given it a more broad implication.”

“Absolutely, self-defense is still permitted in this situation,” state Sen. Becky Whitley, a Democrat, said. “We’re talking about homicide.”

The American Bar Association notes the gay panic defense has been used in the past “to partially or completely excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction.”

Currently, only 15 states and Washington D.C. prohibit gay or trans panic defense.

The amended bill is expected to be passed by both houses before being sent to Gov. Chris Sununu for signature.

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