This past Thursday evening, ay a dinner for the Empire State Pride Agenda Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that, through executive action, he had added transgender and gender nonconforming people to New York's Human Rights Law of 1945.
This action comes after the Republican-controlled State Senate once again failed to pass GENDA, New York's Fender Non-Discrimination Act. As in the past, the Act passed the Democratic-controlled Assembly only to find that it would not even receive a vote in the Senate.
The Human Rights Law protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of "age race, creed, natinoal origin, sexual orientation (SONDA passed in 2002), and sex in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, education, and credit.
The law left out the T, so to speak. That was not right, it was not fair, and it was not legal. Transgendered individuals deserve the same civil right that protects them from discrimination. (Update: Many pointed out Cuomo’s use of “transgendered” rather than “transgender” demonstrates a gap in knowledge, something definitely worth noting. Hopefully these changes in law are steps towards more public awareness towards transgender issues and the words we choose.)
Unsurprisingly, the conservative group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms promises a full-court press against this proposal, both in the court of public opinion and, if necessary, the court of law.
There is a very simple reason that the Bathroom Bill—despite the strenuous efforts of LGBT activists—has not become law. The reason is this: The Bathroom Bill is a very, very bad idea. Among other fatal flaws, the Bathroom Bill would force New York employers to accommodate cross-dressing employees in the workplace, would make New York businesses liable for real or invented transgressions upon a civil right to “gender identity or expression,” and would give intact biological males who assert female gender identities access to women’s locker rooms, changing areas, and restrooms in places of public accommodation, thus compromising the privacy and safety of women and girls. While the details of the Governor’s proposed regulation have yet to be made available, any regulation similar to the Bathroom Bill would be completely unacceptable.
In light of the Governor’s announcement, the women of New York should ask themselves one question: Would you feel safe if men were allowed to enter women’s locker rooms, changing areas, and restrooms while you were using them? The husbands, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and brothers of New York should ask similar questions: Do you want men to be allowed to enter women’s locker rooms, changing areas, and restrooms when your wives, daughters, granddaughters, nieces, and sisters are using them? Should men who identify as women be allowed to see your female relatives when they are undressed? Should such men be allowed to undress in front of your female relatives?
--Rev. Jason J. McGuire, NYCF
The regulations will be published in the state register and must go through a public comment period.
A Cuomo official said it was unlikely another administration could easily repeal the protections afforded by the governor's action.
Any time we take action we open ourselves to potential legal challenge, but we're fairly confident that we can defend it successfully." Keep in mind that the (state) Human Rights Law has been interpreted by courts to provide these protections, but it has been a patchwork, and unclear and incomprehensive.
--The Cuomo official
It is easy for people to assume that with the recent (U.S.) Supreme Court decision that brought marriage equality to every state in America that the fight for full equality is over. Nothing could be further from the truth.
--Gay Men's Health Crisis CEO Kelsey Louie
Cuomo's action presumably makes New York the 20th state to legally protect transgender people from discrimination.
Under the new regulations transgender people who experience discrimination can file a complaint in court, with the attorney general or with the State Division of Human Rights. If the division finds that discrimination has occurred, it can award compensatory damages, require policy changes, and levy fines and penalties of up to $100,000.
The governor's office expects the regulations to take effect by the end of the year.