With Democrats in control of the New York Senate for the first time in a decade, lawmakers on Jan. 15 sent to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo two long-awaited pro-LGBT measures — one banning widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy, the other banning anti-transgender discrimination.
The New York Senate approved the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which amends the New York Human Rights Law to ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, housing, public spaces and education, by a vote of 42-19. The Assembly later approved the legislation by a 100-40 vote.
On the same day, the New York Senate approved legislation prohibiting conversion therapy for youth by a vote of 57-4. The Assembly approved the legislation by a vote of 135-3.
Juli Grey-Owens, executive director of transgender-led Gender Equality New York, said in a statement approval of GENDA “sent the strong message that our state supports the free expression of gender identity and the right of gender-expansive New Yorkers to be our authentic selves.”
“We thank our leaders in the Assembly and Senate who have supported our community with explicit and permanent protections from discrimination,” Grey-Owens said. “The passage of GENDA not only represents the final chapter in the fight for legislative equality, but also sends a strong message across our state that there will no longer be any excuse for discrimination against those who are transgender and non-binary.”
The vote on GENDA essentially brings to an end a fight of 16 years in seeking to the pass the legislation. The New York Assembly has passed the legislation 11 times over the years, but 2019 marks the first time the New York Senate has approved the bill. (Last year, GENDA was killed by committee vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.)
New York Assembly member Danny O’Donnell, who’s gay, commended the New York Legislature for advancing the pro-LGBT measures.
“Across our state and our country, LGBTQ Americans face discrimination for who they are; suffering violence, being kicked out of their homes and struggling to find acceptance,” O’Donnell said. “Today we righted a 16-year-old wrong by passing GENDA and protected countless young people from the hateful fraud of conversion therapy.”
Once GENDA becomes law in New York, Wisconsin will be the only state in the country with a statewide banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but not gender identity.
Although neither GENDA nor the “ex-gay” therapy ban were laws in New York, Cuomo during his tenure sought to enact the goals of those measures through executive order.
In 2015, Cuomo directed New York’s Division of Human Rights to interpret state law barring sex discrimination to apply to cases of anti-trans discrimination. In 2016, Cuomo banned public and private insurers in New York from covering conversion therapy.
Cuomo in a statement commended the legislature for approving GENDA, saying the actions stand in contrast to anti-trans policy under the Trump administration.
“At a time when the federal government is doing everything it can to roll back the hard won rights of transgender Americans, New York State is once again stepping up for full equality and equal protections under the law,” Cuomo said. “We were the first state in the nation to issue regulations prohibiting harassment and discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, and continue to fight this federal administration’s despicable attacks on trans people. This is an issue of basic fairness, and today marks an historic day for those in the LGBTQ community who fought tirelessly for the passage of this bill.”