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Court rules in favor of transgender woman, against Transit Authority

Court rules in favor of transgender woman, against Transit Authority

Transit is running out of options for delaying justice

In a major win for transgender New Yorkers, an appeals court ruled unanimously that New York City Transit Authority employees are not exempt from the New York City Human Rights Law, and thus can be held liable for discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression.

The Appellate Division, Second Department (“Appellate Division”) upheld the lower court’s ruling in Bumpus v. New York City Transit Authority, refusing to dismiss the case against a Transit worker who, Plaintiff Tracy Bumpus avers, launched a sustained and vicious transphobic assault on her at a Brooklyn subway station. In that February 2008 ruling, Justice Robert J. Miller explained, “The Human Rights Law affords protection to transgender people in New York City. By riding the subway, a transgender person doesn’t become less of a person and lose the protection of the Human Rights Law.”

This is the latest in a series of notable victories for Bumpus in the burgeoning field of transgender rights law, and the last option for the Transit Authority, which has spent two years appealing the case. Last year, the Appellate Division refused to overturn another lower-court decision affirming Bumpus’ right to sue Transit for negligence in the matter. And in May, Justice Miller ruled that Bumpus’s partner cannot be asked “plainly improper” questions about his sexual orientation simply because gender discrimination is at stake.

“The filing of a civil lawsuit is not a passport which allows exploration or invasion of the most intimate beliefs a person may have based on half baked psychology or timeless stereotypes,” Miller explained.

Statewide, there is no law preventing discrimination against people on the basis of gender identity and expression. In March, the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act passed through the Assembly, but because of the Albany fiasco, it has not passed through the State Senate.

“The Transit Authority has over 40,000 employees,” Housing Works’ Senior Staff Attorney Armen H. Merjian observed. “We are gratified that the Appellate Division has affirmed that these employees are not exempt from the New York City Human Rights Law, the only law in New York that protects transgender citizens from discrimination. And we are saddened that the Transit Authority sought to establish otherwise.”

Posted on July 16, 2009 at 8:57 pm

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