Albany Times-Union: Assembly Passes GENDA Bill

By Rick Karlin, May 9

This has come up repeatedly during the past few years, but once again the Democratic-controlled Assembly  by a 81-46-vote margin has passed a gender non-discrimination bill.

The bill, however, has gone nowhere in the Republican-led Senate, a fact that some of the Assembly Republicans alluded to in the debate.

During the debate,  Manhattan Democrat Richard Gottfried parried with Republicans who expressed fears that such a measure would give free rein to men who, claiming to be transgender, might work their way into women’s locker rooms or other spots where they could launch a sexual assault. Gottfried and others, though, said there’s been relatively little evidence of that and he noted that a man could simply dress as a woman in order to gain access to locker or rest rooms.

As it has in the past, the debate went off on some tangents. Schoharie Valley GOP Assemblyman Pete Lopez, for instance, pushed for a clear distinction between transvestites, or men who dress as women and vice versa, and transgendered people who have switched from the gender they were born with or assigned to at birth.

And the discussion was wide ranging, including allusions to chromosones (women are xx and men are xy); and allusions between gender identity and one’s stated or real ethnic ancestry.  Troy-area GOP Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin noted that Native Americans, for example, need to trace a distinct lineage, even though there are people who claim Native heritage.

“Half our ancestors were women. That doesn’t mean we are,” replied Gottfried.

Even though this debate has raged for several years, Monday’s discussion was notable for if no other reason than the legal battle between the federal government and the state of North Carolina where lawmakers passed a bill banning people from using bathrooms that don’t correspond to their biological gender.

Here is the release on the bill:

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried today announced the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which would protect New Yorkers from facing discrimination due to their gender identity or expression in many aspects of daily life including employment, housing and education (A.4558-B, Gottfried).

The legislation would prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression and would expand New York State’s hate crime laws to include crimes against people because of their gender identity or expression.

“This legislation represents the Assembly’s continued commitment to protecting all New Yorkers from discriminatory practices,” said Heastie. “It is unconscionable that neither the federal or state government have declared discrimination against transgender individuals illegal. This bill addresses that injustice.”

“Transgender rights are human rights,” said Gottfried, sponsor of the bill. “It’s an embarrassment to New Yorkers that 18 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws barring discrimination on the basis of gender identity, while GENDA can’t even get a vote in our State Senate. While North Carolina and other states try to roll back progress by attacking transgender rights, New York should stand up for common sense, fairness and justice.”

Across New York State, many cities have also passed similar transgender-inclusive civil rights legislation including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, New York, Rochester and Syracuse. Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “New York has historically been a leader in securing equal rights and protections for its citizens. Once again, the Assembly has passed legislation to ensure that all New Yorkers have the protections they need and deserve to lead safe and fulfilling lives.”

Assemblymember Joseph Lentol said, “Currently a huge gap exists in protections against discrimination for New Yorkers. This bill would eliminate that gap and ensure that all New Yorkers are entitled to the same civil rights protections.”

Assemblymember Deborah Glick said, “The fact that an individual could be fired from his or her job, evicted from one’s home or denied services on the basis of gender identity or expression is an enormous injustice in our state. That type of discrimination has no place in New York State and is why this bill needs to become the law of the land.”

Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell said, “This bill is critical to ensuring that all New Yorkers are entitled to equality everywhere in this state. The Assembly has passed this legislation nine years in a row and it long overdue to become law.”

Assemblymember Matthew Titone said, “The Assembly’s repeated passage of this bill demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that New York State protects everyone from discriminatory practices. No one should live in fear of losing their home or job because of their gender identity.”

Assemblymember Harry Bronson said, “The Assembly has been a fierce advocate for equality for New Yorkers. For the ninth consecutive year in a row, the Assembly has passed legislation to put an end to discrimination on the basis of gender expression or identity and ensure full equality for all.”