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Gotham Gazette: Toward a Binary Free NYC

For nearly 100 years, Democrats in the State of New York have elected one man and one woman per Assembly District to serve in the Democratic Party’s governing body, the State Committee. A rule change passed last month means that after 2020, this will no longer be the case.

Press release: GENDA takes effect today!

GENDA Law Defending Transgender Rights Takes Effect Today!  

Today is an historic day: the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act takes effect in New York State. For far too long, transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals in New York had waited for their rights to be recognized, with discrimination and bigotry standing in the way of opportunities they should never have been denied.  

That ended earlier this year with the passage and signing of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), a bill which I introduced in the Assembly eighteen times before it finally passed both houses of the Legislature in January, and took effect today. In past years, the Assembly had passed the bill 11 times, but the Senate’s Republican Majority refused to let the bill have a floor vote. In 2019, the new Democratic Majority joined the Assembly in protecting the rights of New Yorkers regardless of gender identity or expression.  

GENDA protects the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming New Yorkers and makes gender identity or expression one of the state’s protected classes.  No one should ever be denied basic needs like housing and health care or employment opportunities because of another’s narrow-mindedness.  Today, the provisions of GENDA that make it a hate crime to harm a person based on their gender identity or expression go into effect, providing more protection from discrimination.  

Earlier this year, the Assembly and the Senate also passed a law that bars the ‘gay and trans panic’ defense, which had allowed a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity to be used as an affirmative defense to reduce a murder charge.  This “blame the LGBT victim” legal stratagem helped bias-driven killers try to evade responsibility for their own actions, instead of calling the murders they committed what they are – hate crimes.

The fight against bigotry against members of the LGBT community is far from over, but New York won’t stand idly by while people are discriminated against for being themselves.  GENDA is a victory for all transgender and gender-nonconforming New Yorkers.

I received a pen from Governor Cuomo after he signed GENDA into law at Manhattan’s LGBT Community Center on January 25, 2019. (Also pictured are NYS Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul and NYS Senator Brad Hoylman, the Senate sponsor of GENDA.)

NY County Politics: Gottfried Takes Part in Pride Month’s Climactic Finale

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried hardly said a word as he and his friends and colleagues proceeded down the street during New York City’s Annual Pride March. Instead, he had Jeffrey LeFrancois, a fellow activist and longtime friend of his, take on the role of his hype man. LeFrancois strode from one end of the street to the other with a microphone in hand to spread the word about Gottfried’s accomplishments.

“He introduced the first marriage equality bill back in 2003!” LeFrancois announced to the crowd. “He’s been leading the way on LGBT rights in New York State for decades – because LGBT rights are human rights!”

Press Release: Protecting the Right to Gender Identity and Expression – “GENDA” Passes Assembly and Senate

Debating GENDA on the floor of the Assembly, January 15, 2019

The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (“GENDA,” A747/S1047), which protects transgender people under the State Human Rights Law and the hate crimes law, was approved by the Assembly and Senate today and is expected to be signed into law by the Governor. The bill also protects people who are gender non-conforming (non-binary) and other gender identities or expressions.

“Today is an historic day,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Assembly sponsor of GENDA. “The Assembly has passed the bill 11 times, but the Senate’s Republican Majority refused to let the bill have a floor vote. Today, the new Democratic Majority has joined us in protecting the rights of New Yorkers regardless of gender identity or expression. I look forward to Governor Cuomo signing GENDA into law.”

“The passage of GENDA – 16 years in the making – will codify our progressive reputation and ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation are treated equally and with respect,” said Senator Brad Hoylman, Senate sponsor of GENDA. “As the Trump administration continues to roll back protections for LGBTQ Americans, today’s victory sends a strong message to LGBTQ people across New York: you are loved, understood, and protected by your state government. We will not let you down.”

Transgender and non-binary people – whose gender identity, appearance, behavior or expression differs from their genetic sex at birth – face discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and other areas of life, and they are particularly vulnerable to hate crimes.

“The Assembly has now passed GENDA for eleven consecutive years under the leadership of Assemblymember Gottfried, and I’m grateful for his persistence,” said Hoylman. “After years of Republican opposition, I am proud to be part of a Democratic Majority that works to safeguard the rights of all New Yorkers. Thank you to Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and my colleagues in the Democratic Majority for leading the charge to protect our LGBTQ community. I am also deeply grateful to the previous sponsors of GENDA in the Senate, Senators Tom Duane and Daniel Squadron. ”

“Governor Cuomo took strong action in 2015 when he issued state-wide regulations under the State’s Human Rights Law that prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity and transgender status,” said Gottfried. “But adding gender expression and identity to the Human Rights Law and the Penal Law will give the community proper recognition, protection against repeal of these regulations, and add protection under the State’s Hate Crimes Law. With an administration of bullies in Washington, New York is standing up for common sense, fairness, and justice.”

“The Trump Administration’s attack on the rights of transgender people, as well as taking steps to literally erase our existence in federal guidelines and legislation, has made the passage of a state transgender civil rights bill imperative,” said Juli Grey-Owens, Executive Director of Gender Equality New York. “It is time to pass explicit and permanent protections from discrimination against transgender and non-binary New Yorkers. Further, it is time to fight transphobia and send the strong message that New York State supports the free expression of gender identity and the right to be our authentic selves.”

“Today our state has taken a powerful step forward in the journey towards equality and justice. New York stands for vision and opportunity, embracing diversity and the potential we each have to thrive. With the passage of GENDA we are a safer place for more of us to achieve our potential and live our lives with greater security and freedom,” said Gabriel Blau, Chair of Equality New York. “Transgender people, especially those of color, are among the most attacked in our nation, facing discrimination, verbal and physical attacks, and murder. Today’s passage of GENDA will go down in history as a major milestone on our journey, a tribute to the people whose work over decades has led to a safer and stronger New York.”

“I have been advocating to get GENDA passed for over 15 years,” said Kiera St. James, Executive Director, New York Transgender Advocacy Group. “Assembly Member Gottfried and Senator Hoylman have worked tirelessly year after year to get it passed, never giving up. I am so grateful to celebrate this win with them and my Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) community. Passing GENDA will change the lives of so many TGNC New Yorkers because they are finally given the protections they deserve.”

“Today is a landmark day for transgender and gender non-confirming citizens of the State of New York,” said Judy Sennesh, Board Chair of PFLAG NYC and founder of PFLAG NYC’s Trans Families Project. “PFLAG NYC families and allies are immensely grateful for the many years of hard work and persistence of GENDA’s sponsors and all legislators who’ve supported this incredibly important bill from the beginning. My son and the children of so many families I’ve come to know over the years are now protected by law in our state, and can live, work, and learn with the civil rights and dignity they deserve. We are all delighted and relieved and want everyone to remember that without a “redesigned” State Senate this couldn’t have happened. Every vote counts!”

“In the face of the Trump administration’s constant attacks on the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming people, passing GENDA could not come at a more critical time,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “We applaud Assembly Member Gottfried and Senator Hoylman for shepherding this bill through to ensure that all New Yorkers are protected. Albany is sending a clear message that the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers are not up for debate and will not be at risk of being thrown by the wayside with changing political winds.”

“That the Senate and Assembly have passed GENDA at the very beginning of this session fills me with a joy and gratitude that’s hard to fully express,” said Kristen Browde, President of the LGBT Bar Association of Greater NY; Co-Chair of the National Trans Bar Association; and Director of Trans United and Equality NY. “It’s a sign of immense progress in protecting all New Yorkers that because of the blue wave that flipped the Senate and the tireless work of Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblyman Dick Gottfried – as well as the full support of Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Carl Heastie, we’re now seeing the dawn of an era in which all New Yorkers can feel protected under our law against the rollbacks and right-wing attacks from DC. As a proud transgender New Yorker, I have the deepest gratitude for all those who got us here. Governor Cuomo – we can’t wait for you to sign this bill!”

“I was in the room when GENDA was born, in Albany, in December 2002, with Joanne Prinzivalli and Charles King,” said Melissa Sklarz. “But the real beginning goes back to 1998, when Sylvia Rivera called a trans community meeting to address gay and lesbian civil rights language that excluded gender identity and expression. The trans community of New York owes a debt to hundreds of people, hundreds of meetings, hundreds of community groups, and 25 different strategies, to arrive at this special moment. I personally wish to thank Senators Tom Duane, Dan Squadron, Brad Hoylman, David Paterson, and Assemblymember Dick Gottfried for fighting this political battle in Albany for the last 20 years.”

GENDA is supported by New York State United Teachers, the New York Civil Liberties Union, Housing Works, dozens of LGBT organizations, a broad range of religious and faith communities, the New York City Bar Association, and numerous labor unions including the NYS AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, AFSCME District Council 37, United Auto Workers Region 9A Metro NYC CAP Council, CSEA, Screen Actors Guild, and Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union.