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Transgender NY'ers continue to win rights

But statewide protection still sought in form of GENDA bill

Many LGBT advocates in New York state, like the ones shown above rallying outside the Capitol last year, are calling for a statewide law to protect the rights of transgender citizens. Local municipalities have passed laws protecting transgender citizens, but advocates want statewide, universal protections.
November 26, 2012
Civil Rights groups are applauding the city of Syracuse for becoming the tenth municipality in New York state to adopt a transgender nondiscrimination ordinance.

Last week, with a 7-1 vote, the Syracuse Common Council amended the city's Fair Practices Law to protect transgender citizens by prohibiting discrimination based on actual or perceived sex or gender identity or expression.

Syracuse joins Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Ithaca, New York City, Rochester along with Westchester, Suffolk and Tompkins counties as the handful of municipalities across the state to pass a transgender rights law.

Although, many civil rights groups are happy about the local transgender nondiscrimination ordinances, many want there to be a statewide law that will protect all New York residents.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried has sponsored legislation that would help protect transgender New Yorkers against discrimination.
"We all know too well the daily threats faced by transgender New Yorkers and it's heartening to know they will finally have legal recourse in Syracuse," said Executive Director of the Empire State Agenda Nathan Schaefer. "The time is ripe for a statewide bill that will protect all New Yorkers, regardless of where they are in the state."

Schaefer said he is in support of proposed statewide legislation called the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act — a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity statewide.

The GENDA Act would prohibit discrimination against someone's gender identity whether or not it is "different" from the gender that is traditionally associated with the sex they are assigned to at birth. Transgender discrimination will also be treated as a hate crime.

Current law in New York state prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, sex and sexual orientation in the areas of employment, housing and education. The GENDA act would extend current law to ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression.

The GENDA Act was introduced by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, to the Assembly and by State Sen. Daniel Squadron, D-Carroll Gardens, in the senate earlier this year.

Last month, Squadron and Gottfried, sponsors of the GENDA Act, held a hearing earlier to discuss the challenges faced by transgender state residents. It is still legal in the state of New York for a person to lose their job or be evicted from their home because they are transgendered, except in areas where local anti-discrimination laws have been enacted.

"The goal is to create a strong statement of the need and the values of legislation to prevent discrimination in New York against transgender New Yorkers," Gottfried said.

Christopher Argyros, transgender rights organizer of the Empire State Pride Agenda, said every New York resident should be treated fairly and equally and all people should have a chance to earn a living and provide for themselves.

"No one should live in fear that they could be fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance," he said during the forum. "This is a life or death issue that our state should not ignore."

Passing the GENDA act will be one of Squadron and Gottfried's main priorities when lawmakers return for session in Januray, they said.

The GENDA Act has passed the Assembly five times, but remained stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, Squadron said. However, as of press time, the makeup of the upcoming Senate is still undecided.

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