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Trans-Gay Panic Defense Killed In Nevada

Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP/Getty Images

Violence against transgender people is at an all-time high in the United States. 


In 2018, The Human Rights Campaign counted 28 transgender people who were killed in the United States; in 2017, the number was 29. 


In more than one case, defendants have said they were driven to kill out of fear or panic. 


Nevada just became the fourth state to outlaw that kind of defense. 


And Olivia Yamamoto, a Las Vegas high school senior, is a big reason the law passed. 

“I got interested in it when, unfortunately, one of my classmates was killed by his father because he was gay," she told KNPR's State of Nevada, "And I thought that something needed to be done about this because this can’t be happening anymore.”

When she heard about the trans-gay-panic defense, she decided that was a perfect opportunity to make something good out of the tragedy.

And while Nevada has a live-and-let-live reputation, Yamamoto believes it was important for the ban to be codified.

“Even if one instance of the defense being used that’s too many times of it being used,” she said.

But not everyone believes the law is needed. Jane Heenan, a marriage and family therapist and founder of Gender Justice Nevada, said the courts already recognize that such a defense isn't justified.

“It’s my experience over the last 20 years or so in advocating for sex-gender diversity that we in Nevada have moved from a place where such a law would have been substantial and necessary to a place where we have, broadly speaking, agreed that inclusion and respect for all is legitimate,” she said.

Heenan believes it is time for Nevada to stop patching up problems from the past and be a leader when it comes to LGBTQ rights. 

Instead of focusing on a problem that wouldn't stand up in Nevada courts today, Heenan believes the state should focus on current problems. For example, she would like lawmakers to address medical unnecessary surgeries on infants who are born intersex. 

Olivia Yamamoto, senior, Coronado High School;  Jane Heenan, marriage/family therapist, founder, Gender Justice Nevada

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.