Lawmakers in the District of Columbia have approved a bill that bans the use of the so-called gay and transgender panic defense in criminal trials.

Criminal defendants who use the controversial defense claim that a violent act was triggered by the revelation of a victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

According to the Washington Blade, the vote, held on December 15, was unanimous. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who had a hand in crafting the legislation, has said that she will sign it into law. Congress also needs to review the proposed legislation.

The Bella Evangelista and Tony Hunter Panic Defense Prohibition and Hate Crimes Response Amendment Act of 2020 is named after Bella Evangelista, a transgender woman who was murdered in 2003, and Tony Randolph Hunter, a gay man who died from injuries he sustained from an attack while walking to a gay bar in 2008. In both cases, the men charged attempted to use the panic defense.

DC joins a growing list of states that have prohibited the defense, including Washington, New Jersey, New York, California, Hawaii, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Illinois, Nevada, and Rhode Island.

The legislation also strengthens the district's hate crimes law by clarifying that prejudice does not need to be the sole motivating factor for a jury to find a defendant guilty of a hate crime.