Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, on Wednesday signed a bill into law that bans the use of the so-called gay and transgender panic defense in criminal trials.

Passage of the bill makes Virginia the first Southern state to enact such a law.

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.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved House Bill 2132 in February.

Delegate Danica Roem, a Democrat from Manassas, sponsored the bill.

“Thank you to my team, the advocates who testified, my colleagues who voted for it and my 15-year-old out student constituent in Manassas Park who requested it,” Roem said in a tweet after the signing.

Similar laws have been enacted in the District of Columbia and 11 states, including Washington, New Jersey, New York, California, Hawaii, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Illinois, Nevada, and Rhode Island. A bill in Maryland has cleared the House and is before the Senate.