A hearing was held today before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill was voted down 12 to 11.
I listened in on a live webcast, and it was orchestrated very poorly. The first two speakers raised the issues of bathrooms and teachers. The supporters didn't really seem to know their lines.
Senator Savino responded in defense of the bill. She wasn't really clear or definitive about the objections to the bill. She said some good things, like the fact that other jurisdictions have enacted such bills without bathroom or school problems. However, her rhetorical skills were no match for the outspoken objectors. Empire State Pride Agenda has a very clearly written fact sheet on the issue. She should have taken some time to get the facts down.
The man who seemed to be the legislative counsel was not, in my opinion, well prepared to explain the bill. He was asked what "gender expression" meant and he was unable to articulate the concept, except to say that the bill did not explicitly define it. That added fuel to the objection about bathrooms and schools.
I know, we shouldn't attack our allies; we should be grateful. Yes, thank you. But when they're frankly unprepared to advocate well, we need to say so.
Oh, and there was the usual New York Senate intrigue and treachery. Senator Lanza originally voted yes, and then, after a harangue from Senator Diaz, changed his vote to no. That one vote change killed the bill. GENDA lay face down on the floor, with Senator Lanza's knife in its back.
In short, this was Amateur Hour. Clearly, they didn't bring their A-game to this effort. My summary of the sad proceedings after the jump.
It was quite difficult to hear, and there was no indication of who anybody was, so this is a summary of what I was able to glean.
June 7, 2010
NY Senate Judiciary Committee
Speaker 1: The main argument against the bill is access to bathrooms and locker rooms invading the privacy of others. Is that a valid point?
Speaker 2: There have been similar laws around NY state for a long time with no problem of voyeurs going into bathrooms. A person who put on a dress to access women's areas would not be expressing a valid gender identity.
Speaker 1: I have a memo from the international association of racquet and sports clubs. Other states have seen fit to explicitly exempt locker rooms and bathrooms. Why don't we amend the bill to put that exemption in and then I would support the bill with regard to housing and credit that were in SONDA. It would be easy to take this number one issue off the table, and I haven't heard any reason to oppose the amendment, so I suppose it is pure obstinacy not to exempt bathrooms.
Speaker 3 (Sen. Diaz): This would invade First Amendment rights of restaurants and schools. (It was a much longer harangue, but impossible to understand.)
Speaker 4 (Sen. Savino): This bill has been trivialized as a bathroom bill. Most people thought that SONDA covered transgender people, and we now know this isn't true. I see transgender men go into bathrooms all the time and I accept them as women. Men go into women's bathroom's all the time when the men's rooms are full. Men bring their female children in the women's room when they need to go to the bathroom. People come into teaching positions in NYC right now because NYC has a law against discrimination.
Sen. Diaz (interrupting): You're twisting what I'm saying.
Speaker 4: No, I am responding to your question.
Chair Sampson: Let her continue.
Speaker 4: They can be transgender teachers in New York City. I've worked with case workers in the welfare department who work with transgender people and they need help.
Speaker 5: This is an issue we should take out of the equation. I ask you to hold the bill so we can vote on an amendment.
Chair Sampson: It isn't necessary at this time.
Speaker 6: If a male wearing a dress was forced to go into the men's bathroom, that would expose them to danger of violence, so it would be safer to allow them into the women's room.
Speaker 7: Your argument is ridiculous.
Speaker 8: I didn't realize men brought their female children into female rest rooms, but that means they're accompanied by a child, so it isn't relevant to the objection. What is gender expression - what does that include? If someone wants to express themselves in a certain way, like outrageous conduct, it is the right of any individual to be outraged by that and to act against that conduct.
Counsel: The bill is silent as to what exactly gender expression is. (Reads the definition)
Speaker 8: How is their expression or choice limited in any way in the workplace?
Counsel: The bill is silent as to what it means. I would take it mean to refer to clothing and hairstyle.
Speaker 8: That's a serious issue.
Vote: 12 ayes, 11 nays, 0 abstentions
Sen. Diaz: (unintelligible)
(Senator Lanza retracts his yes vote.)
New tally: 11 ayes, 12 nayes, 0 abstentions.
Speaker 8: Where is the sponsor, Senator Tom Duane? I thought the idea of the new committee rules was to make this a better process. If the sponsor isn't here to hear our thought process, how can this bill be made better?