Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS
Posted by Sunny Bjerk , August 17, 2012
December 17, 2002
Although SONDA (Sexual Orientation Nondiscrimination Act) passes both in both the NYS Assembly and Senate, both sides reject an amendment to the bill that would include antidiscrimination protections for transgender New Yorkers in housing, healthcare, and employment. Many in the LGBT community decry this truncated version of SONDA and call for the protections of all in the community. After the perfunctory version of SONDA is passed, Housing Works President and CEO Charles King inspires dejected transgender advocates. “Don’t worry,” he says. “We’ll have our own bill. We’ll call it GENDA.”
Housing Works co-crafts the Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act (GENDA) bill, which is introduced by Assemblymember Richard Gottfried (a Democrat from the Chelsea area of Manhattan) into the Assembly. Housing Works State Issues Organizer Mark Hayes spearheads a new GENDA lobbying coalition. His work pays dividends: GENDA clears two Assembly committees—but ultimately fails to make it to the Assembly floor.
The GENDA coalition turns over leadership of its Albany lobbying efforts to one of its members, the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA). As one of the state’s most recognizable LGBT civil rights lobbyists, the move has the potential to bring major muscle to the fledgling effort.
January 1, 2006
Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who endorsed GENDA as a gubernatorial candidate, is inaugurated.
June 20, 2006
At the annual Transgender Day of Action Pride march, Charles King publicly laments that he is the only leader of a high-profile AIDS organization to participate in the march, and swift urges action on GENDA, which is adrift in Albany. Despite ESPA’s leadership, GENDA fails to reach a vote in the Assembly.
Despite 69 Assembly cosponsors for GENDA, the legislative session ends for the fifth year in a row with no vote on GENDA. The GENDA coalition publicly criticizes ESPA’s efforts and demands that ESPA hire a GENDA coordinator, commission polling on transgender rights and make GENDA a priority. ESPA eventually meets all of those demands.
March 17, 2008
Pro-GENDA Democrat David Paterson replaces Spitzer as NYS Governor.
After renewed efforts by ESPA and the GENDA coalition, GENDA’s prospects look promising. Housing Works and other groups send scores of activists, most of them transgender, to lobby legislators in Albany.
June 6, 2008
GENDA passes the Assembly by a vote of 108 to 34. “I was ecstatic,” recalls transgender Housing Works client Djia Xi, who lobbied in Albany. “But the battle isn’t over.”
April 21, 2009
GENDA passes again in the Assembly, 97 to 38, but never makes it a vote in the Senate.
Dec. 15, 2009
In front of an overflow crowd at the LGBT Community Center, Gov. Paterson signs an executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity for people employed in the New York State government. Paterson makes it clear that this order is not only to protect state workers, but to simultaneously push the Senate to pass GENDA.
March 2, 2010
GENDA passes the New York Assembly for the third year in a row, leaving the bill in the hands of the cankerous and cowardly Senate. Within twenty-four hours, several transgender Housing Works clients hit the road for Albany, traveling from office to office to lobby senators to support transgender civil rights.
June 8, 2010
A devastating blow: Despite reports that GENDA could get through the Senate, the Senate’s Judiciary Committee votes 12 to 11 not to send GENDA to the full Senate for a vote. All 11 Republicans on the committee vote no, and they are joined by Democratic Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz Sr., a fierce proponent of equal rights for the LGBT community.
Advocates begin to plan how to pass GENDA in 2012. “We have been fighting for GENDA for eight years, pushing the boulder up the hill of transphobia, and we’ll keep fighting,” says Housing Works’s Vice President for New York Advocacy and Public Policy Terri Smith-Caronia.
GENDA passes the New York State Assembly for the FIFTH YEAR in a row. Assemblyman Richard Gottfried again sponsors the bill, spending two hours methodically arguing the need for GENDA and debunking the insane accusations from Assembly Republicans, who refuse to listen understand the bill as anything other than the “Bathroom Bill.”
Housing Works clients travel to Albany to participate in Equality and Justice Day, joining hundreds of other LGBT activists and allies to fight for equal rights for all New Yorkers. Activists focus the fight on getting GENDA passed and urging Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos to bring GENDA to a floor vote by December 31st. Skelos remains mum and uncooperative about bring the bill to a vote before the end of the year.
Housing Works and its allies begin preparations and plans to bring GENDA to a vote and equal protections for the state’s transgender community. Albany lobbying continues to NY Senators and to force them to acknowledge the need for the bill.
Currently, GENDA protections exist in a hodgepodge across the New York State, with five cities—Rochester, Ithaca, Albany, Buffalo, New York City—and three counties—Westchester, Tompkins and Suffolk with gender expression protections. In total, these jurisdictions account for about 75% of New York’s population.
And you better believe we won’t stop until GENDA is passed in our State.
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