Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver) released this statement today following Senate passage of House Bill 1687, a measure that prohibits defendants from using a victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation to justify violent assaults—a justification sometimes known as the “panic defense.” Because the bill had earlier passed the House, it can now be signed into law by the governor.
“This bill came to the Senate floor today in large part because of the violent and abominable killing of Nikki Kuhnhausen, a young transgender woman from Vancouver, last year. But the tremendous need for the legislation predates Nikki’s tragic death.
“By all accounts, Nikki would be alive today if not for a homophobia-based assault on her life. And, I suspect, so would others who have been similarly victimized.
“Also, by all accounts, Nikki was an uncommonly caring, compassionate and giving young woman. Any loss of life is horrific. But Nikki’s considerable record of befriending others makes her death even more senseless and unfathomable.
“I cannot imagine the grief felt by her family and friends and loved ones. I can only imagine that it must be all-consuming — and know that it falls to us to do whatever we can to prevent such unspeakable atrocities from reoccurring.
“The terrible truth is that vicious assaults have been perpetrated against transgender people, as well as others in the LGBTQ community, for far too long. This bill is a start. It is long overdue, and we must still do more.
“But today, let’s start here. And let’s continue along this path until people like Nikki have the protections they deserve — and the ability to enjoy the same safety and ability to live out their lives as anyone else.”
For interviews: Sen. Annette Cleveland, 360-786-7696
For information: Rick Manugian, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7569