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Historic Transgender Anti-Discrimination Law Passed in New York

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Sixteen years of work has finally paid off.

New York’s state legislature passed a law passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA, a bill to protect transgender people from discrimination, the Daily Beast reports. The bill adds gender identity as a protected class when it comes to housing, employment and public accommodations.

Until this law’s passing, it has been legal for businesses, landlords and more to discriminate against New York state’s estimated 78,600 transgender residents.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo applauded the legislature for passing GENDA on Twitter.

“I commend the Legislature for finally passing #GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, codifying crucial protections into state law,” he wrote. “Today we’re a more fair, just state and every New Yorker should be proud.”

Cuomo, who has pledged to officially sign GENDA into law, issued an executive order protecting transgender people from discrimination in 2015, but this policy will further ensconce these protections.  

It’s taken 16 years for GENDA to finally pass in the New York legislature after years of a Republican-led senate shutting down the bill’s prospects.

Out state senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) tweeted a thread just before the bill’s vote.

 

“We are here in the New York State Senate today to chart a new course,” he wrote. “We are here for every transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorker who has waited too long for the recognition of this chamber. No longer. Please join me in righting this wrong.”

In a statement, Glennda Testone, executive director of New York’s LGBT Community Center, called the law “a major step forward” in ensuring trans New Yorkers are treated fairly under the law.

“This hard-fought victory is a result of more than a decade of dedicated activism, bravery and persistence, led by [transgender, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary] advocates and allies across New York State and beyond,” Testone said. “We thank them for never giving up on this crucial piece of legislation and fighting so that TGNCNB people in our community are affirmed, protected and celebrated.”

Testone went on to say that, while the law is great, “one law is not a cure-all for the systemic oppression and discrimination that TGNCNB New Yorkers face” and called for the New York state legislature to pass a bill allowing the state to gather data on sexual orientation, gender identity and racial or ethnic identity of those who are the victims of hate crimes.

Eric Lesh, executive director of the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York, stressed to the Daily Beast just how much 2018’s midterm election and the “blue wave” played into this victory.

“I think the reason that it’s taken so long here in New York is because we have had a [State] Senate that is out of touch with the vast majority of New Yorkers,” Lesh said. “We’ve had a Senate that’s been dragging its heels, that’s been controlled by Republican legislators for so long — and that’s why a group of trans and LGBT people have been working their butts off to make sure that we brought about progressive change once and for all.”

Lesh added that after nearly two decades of fighting, “in one day it’s so clear how elections really matter.”

This statewide victory comes on the same day that New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced that transgender and gender nonconforming NYC residents will be able to get a third gender option — ”X” — on their IDNYC cards.

Related | New York City Now Has a Third Gender Option on Its ID Cards

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