New Yorkers are legally protected against discrimination based on race, sex, sexual orientation, or disability — which means people who fall under any of those categories cannot lose access to homes, jobs, and other services because of their racial, sexual, or physical identities.
Currently, however, there are no protections for New Yorkers who are transgender or express their gender differently from societal expectations and stereotypes.
And according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which is pushing to change the discrimination laws to include this group, New York state is falling behind.
This week, the NYCLU released a report documenting discrimination in the state for transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers.
The report, Advancing Transgender Civil Rights and Equality in New York, calls on state legislators to pass legislation called the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA, which would protect individuals against discrimination based on their gender identity or expression.
“The bill would really give basic civil rights to transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers,” Melissa Goodman, NYCLU senior litigation and policy counsel, told the Voice yesterday. “Sadly [they] often face what is quite brutal and pervasive discrimination in nearly every aspect of their daily lives.”
A version of the bill, which has been around for years, passed in the Assembly on Monday, and the NYCLU is pushing for the State Senate to follow suit.
What the bill would do is very simple: It would amend the state’s Human Rights Law to include protections for transgender individuals against discrimination.
But it would have a huge impact for this population, Goodman said.
“They are often fired, denied jobs, or denied access to housing, or service in restaurants or in stores simply because of who they are or how they appear or look,” Goodman said.
If the Human Rights Law were updated to include this segment of the population, it would be prohibited to discriminate against them, and they would have the legal right to fight employers or businesses, by suing or by filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.
“Despite all the discrimination that happens, they still don’t have basic civil rights protections,” she said.
The state is already playing catch-up, she said. Anti-discrimination laws in 16 states and the District of Columbia explicitly provide protections for transgender and non-conforming people. The time has come for New York to adopt these kinds of basic protections across the state, she said (many cities and towns in the state do recognize the rights of this population, but there are no statewide protections).
With the hope of pushing the legislation forward, the report provides firsthand accounts of New Yorkers who have experienced discrimination, such as one individual who was denied medical treatment and another who was harassed by workers at a subway station.
It’s just common sense at this point, Goodman said. “No New Yorker should have the fear that they are going to face harassment or discrimination in the everyday tasks they go through.”