Senate Leaves LGBT New Yorkers Unprotected

The New York State Senate ended its session Friday without considering an inclusive nondiscrimination act or a ban on debunked efforts to turn gay people straight.

BY Parker Marie Molloy

June 23 2014 4:30 PM ET

N.Y. State Senate chambers

The New York State Senate has blocked two pieces of legislation designed to improve the lives and well-being of LGBT New Yorkers, although both bills passed the state Assembly with bipartisan support.

One of those bills — the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA — would have barred state employers from discriminating against someone on the basis of their gender identity or expression. The other bill would have had New York follow in the footsteps of California and New Jersey, making it illegal for licensed therapists to practice scientifically discredited "ex-gay" or "reparative therapy" on minors, which aims to turn gay people straight.

The legislative session came to a close on Friday without either bill's introduction on the Senate floor for a vote. The State Assembly passed both bills earlier this year, and Governor Andrew Cuomo had indicated that he would sign both pieces of legislation if they arrived on his desk. 

Since 2007, GENDA has passed the New York State Assembly seven times, but every year, the bill dies in the Senate. Similar legislation, which adds gender identity and expression to the list of protected classes in New York's statewide antidiscrimination law, is already on the books in 18 states. 

When New York lawmakers added nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation in 2002, many trans activists and allies were concerned that the legislation did not include protections for trans and gender-nonconforming individuals, who the Center for American Progress reports are discriminated against at a much higher rate in the workplace and society than gay and lesbian individuals. 

At the time, Sen. Thomas Duane attempted to quell those concerns by promising that the fight for transgender nondiscrimination protections would be a top priority.

“We are fighting among ourselves,” Sen. Duane told the New York Times in December 2002. “I promise the transgender community I’m not going to forget. The battle for that begins right away.”

A dozen years later, transgender people are still not protected from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations in New York. At the federal level, including transgender protections were at first a "bargaining chip" but the coalition fighting for protections fell apart without it. And although federal legislation to outlaw discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation is stalled in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act did pass the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support last year. That vote marked the first time in history U.S. Senators had voted on such legislation that expressly included protections for gender identity and expression. 

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