Everyone knows about ‘crimes of passion.’ After all, they’re 90 percent of the motivation in every soap opera ever written. But this past Monday, July 13, the Colorado legislature passed a bill banning a legal defense that relies on similar tenets, but with much darker overtones: The LGBTQ ‘Panic Defense.’

According to the Colorado General Assembly, the ban states that “evidence relating to the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the victim's actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation… is irrelevant in a criminal case and does not constitute sudden heat of passion.”

This includes defendants who learn of someone’s orientation after the victim has confessed their feelings for the defendant, or if the victim and defendant had been in an intimate relationship leading up to the incident. Basically, the law now states that defendants cannot blame their actions on a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity, unless they can actually provide evidence that such information is relevant to their case.

Governor Polis signed the bill into law at the LGBTQ Center in Denver, telling the Denver Post that the accomplishment has brought Colorado “a long way… since our days as the Hate State. We really went from a place where discrimination was legalized in the 1990s to where we are today, where Colorado is a leader.”

Colorado’s moniker as the ‘Hate State,’ was particularly prevalent in the 1990's, according to Westword, especially after the passing of Amendment 2 in 1992. This amendment prohibited lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people from claiming any protection from discrimination as a minority group. While the policy was overturned a few years later in the case of Romer v. Evans, Colorado has still had a checkered past when it comes to LGBTQ rights, including the infamous cakeshop controversy which brought national attention to the state.  

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But now, in a true sign of how much Colorado’s politics and social atmosphere has changed since the 90’s, the ‘panic defense’ ban has been passed with strong bipartisan support, even when the bill was tabled due to the COVID-19 legislature closure. But upon the government’s reopening, both Republicans and Democrats worked to protect the initiative in spite of a flurry of ‘bill-killing’ and on June 8, the bill was revived and brought back to court.

Hailing from bipartisan sponsors Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial and Rep. Matt Soper of Delta (both Republicans), and Rep. Brianna Titone of Arvada and Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City (both Democrats), the ban passed easily, with only one lawmaker opposing it.

When asked about the bill, Titone, the first transgender state lawmaker in Colorado, told the Denver Post that “For me, what this bill really means is protecting black trans women, who are the most vulnerable of the communities we’re trying to protect here.”

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