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HomeNorth AmericaVirginia Legislature passes a bill banning the Trans Panic Defense

Virginia Legislature passes a bill banning the Trans Panic Defense

Trans Panic Defense


Virginia Delegate Danica Roem’s bill HB 2132 to ban the gay and trans panic legal defense passed the Senate Friday unanimously with one amendment. The Senate amended the bill to add that an invitation to have sex, or ‘hitting on someone’, as an unacceptable justification for the gay or transgender panic defense.


Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the discovery of, perception of, or belief about another person’s actual or perceived sex, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation, whether or not accurate, is not a defense to any charge of capital murder, murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, or voluntary manslaughter and is not provocation negating or excluding malice as an element of murder.

Prior to the Senate vote, the Virginia House of Delegates passed in a partisan vote (D58 yea R42). HB 2132 now goes to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) for his signature. It is expected that Northam will sign this bill and make it law.

  • What is trans/gay panic?  And why is a law banning people from using it in defense so important?

There have been at least eight instances in Virginia where the panic defense was used, with the last case in 2011, according to Carsten Andresen, a researcher and criminal justice professor from Austin, Texas. He said he has tracked 200 homicide cases nationally where the panic defense was attempted. Andresen reached out to Roem in support of the bill.

Related: Trans woman Danica Roem Defeats Bob (Bathroom bill) Marshall in VA House of Delegates Race

His research included five murders and three assaults in Virginia between 1973 and 2011 that Andresen said used the panic defense to justify or excuse a defendant’s violent actions. Mark Hayes murdered , in 2002. Hayes claimed he “lost it” and murdered Gainer after engaging in sexual intercourse.

Colorado was the first state to enact a hate crime law that included sexual orientation and gender bias crimes in 2005.

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Four years later the murder of Angie Zapata, a transgender woman from Greely Co became the first trial in the country that this hate crime law would be put to test. What followed shocked and sicked us.

Allen Andrade the man charged with the murder of Zapata knew he was most likely would spend the rest of his life behind bars if convicted as charged. Andrade knew if he could somehow mitigate those charges he would only spend 10 to 15 years behind bars. Andrade didn’t know he was being recorded in a jailhouse phone call when told his roommate as much.

His defense said that he reacted in horror when he learned that Angie Zapata was transgender. He said that he was afraid for his life, despite his overwhelming physical strength, and killed her in self-defense before they had sex.

This shocked the country because, in reality, his Trans Panic defense could have worked.

In 2009 the US didn’t have a single Trans Panic law to prevent his ploy from succeeding. It was pure happenstance that Zapata and Andrade went to a public place where he couldn’t deny knowledge of her transgender history.

Autumn Sandeen was in Colorado and reported for Pam’s House blend,  that “After meeting, the two went to a traffic court hearing in Greeley in which Angie was identified in court by her previous male name and by male pronouns.

The defense team contends Andrade did not learn of Angie’s transgender status until moments before he killed her.
What came out in court, per Deputy District Attorney Brandi Lynn Nieto, was this traffic court trip took place 36-hours before Allen Ray Andrade admittedly killed her.

Currently, only 12 states including Virginia have laws banning Trans/Gay panic defenses. How unthinkable would it be if a person got away with murdering someone simply because they were cisgender and heterosexual?

It is time for a federal law prohibiting trans and gay panic defense.

Delegate Danica Roem speaks to this just prior to Friday’s vote.

Del. Roem defeated an anti-transgender republican and has since become a powerhouse for equality.

VA House passes Bill Designating Nov. 20th the TDoR

Kelli Busey
Kelli, Busey is managing editor at Planet Transgender