Great news from New York!! The New York State Assembly approved a bill affording civil rights protections to the transgender community by an overwhelming vote of 102-33.
The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) would bar bias based on gender identity and expression in employment, housing, public accommodations, and access to credit. It would also amend the 2000 hate crimes statute to include gender identity and expression as protected categories.
The statement from the Empire State Pride Agenda after the jump...
Today the New York State Assembly voted 102-33 to amend the state's human rights law to include anti-discrimination protections based upon gender identity and expression. The bill (A.6584a), known as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) bans discrimination against transgender people in housing, employment, credit, public accommodations, and other areas of everyday life.
"The Assembly has solidly demonstrated once again that it is the leader on civil rights and providing equality for our community where it didn't exist before in New York," said Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle. "We thank Assemblymember Richard Gottfried for his sponsorship and steadfast support of this bill. We also thank Speaker Silver and the Assembly Majority, the 74 cosponsors and the 102 Assemblymembers who passed this bill and understand the importance of providing an umbrella of anti-discrimination protection for all New Yorkers."
First introduced in 2003, GENDA has a record 74 co-sponsors this year in the Assembly, up from 69 last year. The Pride Agenda, the over 200 organizational members of the GENDA Coalition and the LGBT community have been working closely with Assemblymember Gottfried and other Assembly supporters to build the momentum for passage that resulted in today's vote.
"Transgender New Yorkers are in constant fear that they will lose their jobs, get kicked out of their home, or simply be denied service when they go into a restaurant. It goes without saying that these members of our community should be able to go about the business of living their lives openly and without fear," said Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle.
Transgender activist Melissa Sklarz of New York City said about today's vote, "Thank you New York State Assembly for standing up to say 'no' to discrimination against transgender New Yorkers. I can think of years of personal struggle in the job market and workplace without any legal protection and am now hopeful that there is a real chance that the next generation of transgender New Yorkers will not face these same difficulties."
In terms of the Senate, the Pride Agenda's Van Capelle said, "We now look to the New York State Senate to close this gaping hole in the New York State Human Rights Law. Governor Paterson has already said that he will sign this bill into law once the Senate acts."
"My message to the Senate Majority is this: It's now time to do what 78 percent of New York voters believe is the right thing to do and end this discrimination once and for all this year. Thirteen other states already have laws providing protections based upon gender identity and expression, along with 96 cities and counties. We also know that the private sector is far ahead of government with 153 Fortune 500 companies, including 26 based here in New York having policies in place that protect their transgender employees. Clearly, our state is lagging behind."
In the Senate, GENDA is sponsored by Senator Tom Duane and has 17 cosponsors- up from 14 last year. While none of the cosponsors are members of the Republican Majority, the Pride Agenda's legislative scorecard shows GENDA to have the support of 27 Senators, including three Republicans. Unfortunately, the bill is not currently expected to move in the Republican-led State Senate. Since there is no longer a vice governor due to the Spitzer resignation, Democrats and GLTBT allies will now need three seats to give them the majority in order to enact GENDA.
When I spoke with activist Melissa Sklarz last night, she had this to say:
I can think of so many people who have helped create this moment for the state assembly of New York to overwhelmingly endorse and support the idea that transgender New Yorkers matter and deserve civil rights like all other groups of people.
Our community has the momentum and can get these long-overdue protections and rights enacted. Now let's roll up our sleeves and keep working to get this bill passed!!
You can help by making a contribution to Empire State Pride Agenda.