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New York Times calls on NY Senate to pass transgender rights bill

Transgender Rights

By Jacob Combs

New York state seal

In a strong editorial published yesterday, the New York Times editorial board called for the state Senate to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which would ban discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression.  From the NYT:

New York stood for equality by approving same-sex marriage two years ago. It is time now for state lawmakers to extend basic civil rights protections to transgender people. The 2002 state statute that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, education, credit and public accommodations does not explicitly cover transgender people.

Some jurisdictions, including New York City and Suffolk and Westchester Counties, have enacted protections. But in much of the state, people who have had sex-change surgery and others who do not identify with their birth gender can still be denied a job, shelter, credit or access to services because of who they are.

A measure to outlaw discrimination based on gender identity or expression — the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or Genda, sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and Senator Daniel Squadron — passed the Democratic-led Assembly in April for the sixth time. There is a good chance it would also pass the Senate, with nearly all Democrats and some Republicans voting in favor. The challenge is getting the bill to the floor for an up-or-down vote before the end of the legislative session, scheduled on June 20.

Senator Jeffrey Klein, the Democratic leader in the Senate’s coalition leadership, must insist on a vote. He should tell Senator Dean Skelos, the coalition’s Republican leader, that bottling up bills like this one is not part of their power-sharing deal. It would help if Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a supporter of the bill, would commit political capital to enacting the legislation before the session ends. Sixteen states — including New Jersey and Connecticut — and the District of Columbia have enacted anti-discrimination protections covering transgender people. New York should not lag on this important civil rights issue.

GENDA’s uncertain path in the New York Senate comes because of a unique power-sharing structure in the upper house.  Democrats won a majority of the chamber’s seats last November, but six Democrats (who call themselves the Independent Democratic Caucus) chose to align with Senate Republicans and thereby thwarted Democratic control of the Senate.  Under the deal, Republican Senate majority leader Dean Skelos and Democratic Senator Jeffrey Klein have equal authority to decide which bills are voted on by the chamber.

As the Times points out, it’s very likely that GENDA would receive a majority yes vote in the Senate–but only if it is brought up for consideration.  It was Dean Skelos who allowed marriage equality to be voted on and approved by the New York Senate in 2011.  It is time for him to do so again, so that New York can join the other states that have disavowed discrimination against transgender individuals.  For a state with equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, this should be a no-brainer.


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  • 2. Kristopher Vollmer  |  February 2, 2014 at 9:08 pm

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  • 3. Berry Hill Resort  |  March 2, 2014 at 1:22 am

    I wish NYC would become it's own State!

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