April 29, 2013Juli Grey-Owens, Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition executive director and member of the New York state Transgender Rights Coalition, alongside members of the Interfaith Impact of New York State are urging lawmakers to pass legislation this session that will protect transgender New Yorkers from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations.
"Today in the very advanced state of New York, transgender people can be refused employment and/or advancement in their jobs, kicked out of their apartment, and refused service in public or private establishments that are open to the general public," Grey-Owens said.
Interfaith Impact of New York State, an organization of congregations, clergy and lay leaders from across the state, held a press conference Monday at The Legislative Office Building advocating for passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Women Equality Agenda because "all New Yorkers deserve basic protections, and these two important proposals do just that for those in our state who live with unequal treatment in their daily lives," said Interfaith Impact President Rev. Dr. Richard Gilbert.
The GENDA legislation (S.195/A.4226) is sponsored in the Assembly by Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, and is sponsored in the Senate by Daniel Squadron, D-Carroll Gardens.
Grey-Owens said over 60 percent of New York residents are protected by local laws and ordinances.
"However, there are counties around the state where there is no protection. If I drive 10 minutes west of my home, I'm in Nassau County and I could be discriminated there," Grey-Owens said.
"If I work in Nassau County I could be terminated. So these are the things New Yorkers are facing. What we're looking to do is have a bill, a state wide bill, make transgender people—gender identity and gender expression—a part of protected classes so that our civil rights can be protected."
"It's time for New York leaders to help the last minority community in New York win the right to live their life with pride, vigor, and security," Grey-Owens said.
Robb Smith, executive director of Interfaith Impact NYS said, "New York state has an obligation to ensure that individuals who live in our free society are not unduly prevented from making their own choices, following their own beliefs, and conducting their own lives as they see fit."
Grey-Owens cited a survey from 2011 by the National Center for Gender Equality to give an "idea of just what the transgender community must endure."
She said, according to the survey, transgender people are four times more likely to have an annual income of less than $10,000; of the group that has been part of the survey, 41 percent have attempted suicide; 78 percent were harassed at work or school; 35 percent have been physically assaulted; 26 percent lost their job when they came out as transgender; 16 percent were "compelled" to work in an "ungrounded economy—sex workers as well as drugs, Grey- Owens said; 19 percent were refused housing; 11 percent were evicted; and 19 percent were refused medical care.
She said GENDA has passed the Assembly five times and will hopefully pass again this week. The Senate, however, has yet to put in on the floor, she said.
"Our work is to get the Senate to bring this to the floor and to pass it and to give transgender people their civil rights," Grey-Owens said before leaving the podium.