Washington Governor signs Nikki Kuhnhausen Act into law

The law, named after a murdered transgender teen from Vancouver, eliminates ‘LGBTQ panic defense’

OLYMPIA — NOTE: An earlier version of this story included erroneous information about the suspect in Nikki’s murder, David Bogdanov, being out on bail. That information was incorrect. Bogdanov remains in the Clark County Jail with bail set at $750,000, an amount many felt was too low. Clark County Today regrets the error.

Flanked by Nikki Kuhnhausen’s mother and sister, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee today signed a new law named after the transgender teen who was murdered last Summer.

House Bill 1687, also known as the Nikki Kuhnhausen Act, removes a legal strategy known as the LGBTQ+ panic defense. 

Nikki Kuhnhausen’s mother, Lisa Woods, speaks at a vigil for the slain transgender teen last December. Photo by Chris Brown
Nikki Kuhnhausen’s mother, Lisa Woods, speaks at a vigil for the slain transgender teen last December. Photo by Chris Brown

In his statement to police, Nikki’s accused killer, David Bogdanov, said he became “enraged after realizing he’d engaged in sexual contact” with someone who is biologically male, and killed Nikki after the teen admitted to being transgender.

House Bill 1678 removes the ability for a defendant to claim “diminished capacity” based on learning about a victim’s actual or perceived gender identity. Previously, the law recognized that such a discovery could diminish someone’s ability to understand the nature or gravity of a crime before committing it.

“Trans women and, more specifically, trans women of color are disproportionately affected by violence,” Inslee said at a press conference before signing the bill, “and it’s very unfortunate that we need a bill like this.”

Under the LGBTQ+ panic defense, Bogdanov’s attorneys could have argued that the revelation that Nikki was transgender could be so upsetting that he might become “temporarily incapacitated,” and thus could not be held fully responsible for his actions.

With passage of the law, Washington becomes the 10th state to outlaw the LGBTQ panic defense. California was the first to do so in 2006, and New Jersey unanimously approved similar legislation earlier this year.

“Today, we are joining other states to preserve civil rights for a marginalized group,” Gov. Inslee said when signing the bill on Thursday. “This bill prevents defendants from using the homophobic and transphobic LGBTQ panic defense in court.”

“The name of this law honors Nikki’s memory and keeps our focus on addressing the disproportionate amount of violence faced by the LGBTQ community,” said the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, in a statement released after Inslee signed the bill. “This law makes it clear that such violence is inexcusable.”

Bogdanov has pleaded not guilty to murder and is currently being held on a $750,000 bail. Trial is expected to begin this July.

Prosecutors have added hate crime to Bogdanov’s list of charges, meaning they likely will argue he killed Kuhnhausen after learning the teen was biologically male.

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