In a rare and historic moment for the state of New York, a majority of Democratic state senators Tuesday led a bipartisan coalition of their colleagues in a 34-26 vote to pass a bill outlawing antigay discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodation, education, and credit throughout the state. The vote on the measure--commonly known as SONDA (the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act)--almost certainly means it will become law since the state assembly overwhelmingly passed it in January and Gov. George Pataki strongly supports the legislation and has pledged to give it his signature. The law goes into effect 30 days after signing.
New York will become the 13th state--the second largest after California--to enact antidiscrimination protections for gay men and lesbians. SONDA adds the words sexual orientation to the state's existing human rights and education laws. Those laws prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, creed, color, national origin, disability, age, and marital status. To celebrate the victory, rainbow flags will fly Wednesday from city halls across the state, including those of Albany, Brighton, Brooklyn, Buffalo, and Rochester.
"We are overjoyed that the 31-year-long struggle for a statewide law has finally won gay and lesbian people the same rights as all other New Yorkers," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda. "The New York law will be one of the broadest antigay discrimination laws in the nation. This lays the foundation for winning full equality under the law in areas such as taxation, protections for gay youth and transgendered people, and recognition of our families.
"Thirty-one years was far too long to wait for a very basic civil rights measure to pass," Foreman continued. "However, today is about looking forward, not back. The passage of SONDA heralds a new day in New York State for our community."