With the recent repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and the dismissal of Proposition 8, it appears as though the LGBT community is paving the road to equality in the United States. However, the T in LGBT appears to often be left behind as the rest of the community celebrates their victories.
On June 22, LGBTQ Nation wrote, “the New York state Senate adjourned early Saturday morning without taking a vote on the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), a bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in employment, housing, public accommodations and credit.” New York, a state that approved same-sex marriage two years ago, also protects people from discrimination based on sexual orientation in the same areas that GENDA aims to cover based on gender.
The New York Times explains, “Some jurisdictions, including New York City and Suffolk and Westchester Counties, have enacted protections.” They continue, “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.”
GENDA was first presented to the New York State Assembly and Senate back in 2003, and since has been passed in the Assembly 6 times since 2008. The most recent passing was on April 30 where the vote was nearly a two-to-one bipartisan majority. However, despite this GENDA has never been voted on by the State Senate. After the inaction of the New York state Senate on June 22, Nathan M. Schaefer, Executive Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, explained, “We believe we had a bi-partisan majority of the Senate to pass the legislation and send it to the governor for his signature. We were defeated by the adamant refusal of the Senate leadership to bring the measure to the floor for an up-or-down vote.”
Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and Senator Daniel Squadron have endorsed the measure. Squadron, endorsed the bill back in May after a “spate of anti-LGBT attacks around New York.” Without protection by the government, the N.Y. Senate is essentially sending an invitation for hate speech and violence against individuals who are transgendered or gender non-conformists. Not only does GENDA have the support of Squadron and Gottfried, it has the support of the people. LGBTQ Nation reports, “78 percent of New Yorkers polled support ending discrimination against transgender people.”
The New York state Senate has not offered an explanation for the refusal to acknowledge GENDA. While New York remains at this standstill, other states are taking action on a movement for transgender equality. Currently 17 states have measures that protect the transgender and gender non-conformist community under anti-discrimination laws. The New York state Senate needs to take a step back to examine the implications of their inaction. As hate and violence against transgender people and gender non-conformists continues, the inaction by the state Senate appears to open the door to continued and increased hate.
New York stands for equality for the gay community and needs to the do the same for the transgender community.
For more resources on GENDA and transgender equality in New York refer to Daniel L. Squadron’s blog.