Behind the elated celebrations following the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality last month was the power of knowing that times are changing. Over the years, marriage equality became the poster child for LGBT rights, with advocates arguing that a victory on marriage equality would pave the way for other LGBT issues. Now, with a major win under our belts and momentum on our side, the movement must continue to push for the next set of affirming, life-saving, and inclusive changes to our laws. For New York State and the Manhattan Young Democrats, the place to start is by urging the New York State Senate to pass the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA).
According to the Empire State Pride Agenda, the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act “is a bill that would protect transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers from discrimination by adding “gender identity and expression” to the protected classes of the existing Human Rights Law.” In New York State right now, it is illegal to deny someone housing, employment or access to public accommodations or services (e.g. service in a restaurant) based on their age, race, religion, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, marital status or disability. Transgender and gender non-conforming people deserve these same protections as other historically marginalized groups under the law.
Transgender New Yorkers today can face dizzying obstacles to living a full, productive life. Though New York City and several other cities and counties across the State have passed local protections, for 40% of New York State residents, it is legal to be fired or evicted from their homes for being transgender. 74% have experienced harassment or mistreatment at work. Transgender and gender-non conforming individuals are 5 times more likely than the general population to have an income of $10,000 or less. As New Yorkers, we can and we must do better.
The New York State Assembly has passed GENDA every year since 2006. Yet, every year, the bill has stalled in the Senate. Governor Cuomo has pledged to support for this important legislation, but the leadership must make it a priority to pass the bill.
Activists and elected officials must work with Senators from across the State to encourage them to stand up and protect their transgender and gender non-conforming residents. Though all New York City legislators have vowed to support the bill, we must make sure Albany knows that this is a priority for their constituents.
Luckily, there are signs the times are changing. Rhetoric on and off the Senate floor is shifting, giving activists hope that GENDA is poised to become the next major win for the LGBT community. MYD and our progressive allies are committed to advocating for the passage of this necessary, affirming bill.
Join MYD in supporting this critical civil rights legislation: contact your State Senator here.
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