Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Senator Duane: Where are you on New York State's Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Bill?

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | May 20, 2009 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: GENDA, New York, sonda, tom duane

It was hot weather when I met Senator Tom Duane at a picnic last summer up in Sullivan County, New York, where my partner and I live. I shook his hand and asked him about the New York State Gender Expression Non-Discrimination bill, which LGBT leaders, including Senator Duane, have been promising to pass since 2002, when they enacted SONDA, the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination bill. That bill didn't include gender identity or expression, and when transgender supporters expressed their displeasure, we were treated to a lecture on thinking about someone other than ourselves and the importance of "incrementalism."

At that picnic, amidst the potato salad and the flies, right after the dog show, I told him about my work on transgender issues. He acted very pleased to meet me, asked me to email him to discuss the issues, said he would like to talk to me further about them, and to please include my phone number. I did email him, several times. He never responded. I'm still waiting for that phone call.

It's pretty clear to me that Senator's Duane interest in this subject is limited at best, and especially with the New York State marriage bill hanging fire in the Senate halls, I am not feeling hopeful.

I understand that Empire State Pride Agenda and other organizations are making a push for people to make calls today to support the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) legislation that has been passed by the New York Assembly. They say it has enough support to be passed by the Senate. They tell me to call Tom Duane and to tell him to bring GENDA to the Senate floor and pass it. They say we're in the final stretch and it is vital that Senator Duane hears from me.

Senator Duane, I'm still waiting for that phone call from you. I'll give you a ring today. I encourage the rest of you to make that phone call too.

You can reach Senator Tom Duane at (518) 455-2451. If you're from New York State, you can find your State Senator's Albany phone number here. The full Senate list is here.

GENDA would amend the state's human rights law to include anti-discrimination protections based upon gender identity and expression, providing crucial civil rights protections for transgender New Yorkers by banning discrimination in housing, employment, credit, public accommodations, and other areas of everyday life.

ESPA says that more than half of the Senators indicate their support for GENDA, so that it has enough votes to get it passed in the Senate if it comes to the floor for a vote. And guess who holds the power to bring it to the floor for a vote? And how likely is that to happen with Senator "Oh, I'm so interested in your transgender issues" Duane in charge? Better pick up that phone. Because it ain't gonna ring.

Reach Tom Duane at (518) 455-2451. Remember to give them the number of the GENDA bill (S.2406).

ESPA says you should tell them about the broad support for GENDA statewide, including:

* 78% of New York voters
* Unions representing 2.1 million working New Yorkers
* 27 Fortune 500 companies based in cities like Rochester, Corning, New York City and White Plains.
* 344 clergy and lay leaders, representing over 20 different denominations

Senator Tom Duane: I've been waiting for my phone call for eight years now. If you're not going to call, them I'm calling you.

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Angela Brightfeather | May 20, 2009 10:17 PM


Let me inform you about GENDA. When I lived in NY and was President of EON, Inc., the local Transgender support group there, that has been around for the last 30 years, I was deeply involved in moving support for inclusion in the original GLB rights bill.

ESPA was the main protagonist against inclusion. They fought it tooth and nail. In Syracuse a group of lesbian lawyers who served on the Stonewall Committee of Central NY opening fought and testified against an inclusive Fair Practices Bill in Onondaga county and that carried right over to opposition to the state legislation. They promised when the Fair Practices Bill passed in that county, that they woud come back for Trans people. They haven't, and even after the murder of a Trans woman there a few months ago, they still haven't come back to include us. The same thing happened with the state legislation and they aren't coming back for you now. Many of those same people who fought it in Syracuse were on the BOD of ESPA, led by Matt Foreman, the former Director of NGLTF.

We did everything we could to try and get them to include Trans people, but the actions of a few scared, uninformed and willing to lie people, cut deals in smoke filled rooms and refused to include us.

ESPA says one thing. GENDA and I don't think they are willing to spend the time to do so either. I trust them less than I trust any other GLB organization that makes promises A and it's home in DC.

Question...Does ESPA have any Trans person on it's BOD yet?

christophe | May 21, 2009 1:21 AM

While this issue is certainly important to New Yorkers, it really doesn't change things for this nation. With states passing different laws all over the nation we will end up a nation with a big mess of differing laws. What is really going to count in the long run is a federal law in which all states must follow, this is also true for marriage laws as well. I guess this and other LGBT bills from the few states that pass them must be looked on as slow progress but for residents of most states, nothing will change.

Thank you, Dr. Weiss, for making the effort.

All the noise in New York right now is about marriage equality. This comes as no surprise. It sure looks as if the GLB committment to GENDA sure flew out of the window in a hurry when Governor Patterson made his marriage bill announcement last April 16th, as I suspected it would.

Senator Duane's commitment seems to have waned as well. After I called his office I made a call to the chair of the committee where the bill is currently sitting. It's been tabled there at Sen Duane's request. Perhaps he thinks the votes aren't there and ESPA is wrong. Perhaps he just doesn't care. Perhaps ESPA is putting on a dog & pony show to pander to the trans people in New York. Who knows?

What I do know, this bill is indeed vital to all gender variant New Yorkers. It's important nationally as well. Every victory for civil rights equality is a beacon of hope. Every defeat, like the one in New Hampshire, is a blow, even if you don't live there. The more individual states pass trans inclusive nondiscrimination laws, the better chance it will pass at the federal level.

Let us know if you ever get that phone call.