Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS
Trans rights advocates at Pride Parade 2010.
New York’s marriage equality bill is not the only monumental piece of LGBT legislation that could pass in the final days of this year’s legislative session.
Yesterday, a bipartisan group of state assembly members passed the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act (GENDA). Sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the legislation would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity and expression in health care, employment, housing and other areas.
“In New York State it is still legal to fire people for being transgender,” said Melissa Sklarz, director of the New York Trans Rights Organization. “It’s still legal to arrest people for using restrooms. It’s still ok for transgender teachers to be fired. It’s still ok for anyone outside the gender binary to be harassed and hassled.”
While the marriage equality bill has captured significant media attention and galvanized state LGBT activists, transgender rights advocates have long argued that GENDA is just as important.
Without legal protection from discrimination, transgender individuals face significant barriers to acquiring jobs; renting or buying homes; and receiving fair treatment in medical settings. As a result, transgender individuals are, on average, significantly poorer than the general population. They are also four times as likely to be HIV-positive.
New York State lags behind other states and municipalities in providing protection for transgender individuals. Fifteen states, Washington, D.C. and at least 90 localities have already passed transgender-inclusive civil rights legislation. GENDA has passed four times in the New York State Assembly, but never in the Senate.
The question now is whether senators will seek a vote on the bill before the session closes June 20.
“Our community has been this close before,” said Kiara St. James, a transgender woman who has traveled to Albany several times to urge politicians to pass the legislation. “What I would tell the Senate is, ‘We must make sure that all New Yorkers are protected and that every person can hold their head up high with dignity, knowing they can come out of the shadows and truly participate in the sunshine of equality that is enjoyed by everyone else.’”
Read the press release from Assemblyman Gottfried.
The following assembly members voted “Yes” on GENDA yesterday:
Michael Den Dekker
Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
N. Nick Perry
J. Gary Pretlow
Fred Thiele, Jr.
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