Legislative Gazette: Assembly Passes GENDA for Eighth Time

By Karla Ann Cote, June 8

Members of the Empire State Pride Agenda were in Albany on June 2 to witness the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA, in the Assembly. Now they are imploring the Senate to do the same.

GENDA would provide equal protection to transgender people under the State Human Rights Law by expanding current legislation to explicitly address workplace harassment, institutionally-sanctioned discrimination, homelessness and unequal access to medical care.

Sen. Daniel Squadron, D-Carroll Gardens, the lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate, released the following statement proceding the Assembly’s decision to pass the bill, “Today the Assembly passed GENDA for the eighth time — yet Senate Republicans continue blocking a vote for equality. Today’s Assembly vote, without debate, shows that the time is long overdue for equality in New York state.”

More than three-quarters of New York voters support the protections that would be enacted with the equality bill, according to a poll conducted by the Global Strategy Group, a public relations agency.

Many citizens already reside in jurisdictions prohibiting discriminatory acts in accordance with previously enacted GENDA legislation. These municipalities include Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Ithaca, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, as well as the counties of Albany, Suffolk, Tompkins, and Westchester.

Nineteen states along with Washington, D.C. and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico have already passed state-wide equality bills in support of their transgender citizens.

“Real people suffer real harm in their livess; economic harm, social harm, emotional harm, physical harm because of discrimination against transgender New Yorkers,” said Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, the Assembly sponsor of the bill and the chair of Assembly Health Committee.

Melissa Sklarz, the co-chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation, highlighted the nature of the atmosphere being fostered in the absence of statewide efforts to protect human rights for all citizens, regardless of gender identity or expression.

Referring to the cover of this month’s Vanity Fair featuring Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, Sklarz said, “It’s very ironic that on a day in America where transgender lives is the most important story in America, that we come here again after years and struggle to be taken seriously.”

According to a study conducted by the Williams Institute, this disparity costs New York state up to $5.9 million annually in federal and state housing program expenditures and more than $1 million annually in Medicare expenditures.

Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, joined Squadron in sponsorship of the bill following a wave of anti-LGBTQ violence in Manhattan in 2013.

He matched the enthusiasm of the advocates who spoke in favor of the bill at last Tuesday’s press conference.

“Our constituents, many of them transgender, deserve to know where their state senator stands on this crucial issue,” Hoylman said.