Earlier this week, the New York State Assembly passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act for the seventh time since 2007. The bill, first introduced in 2003, now moves to the Senate for a vote. If passed, it would provide employment, housing, and public accommodations protections to transgender New Yorkers.
“We’re pleased that the New York State Assembly came together for the seventh time to pass GENDA and send a message to the Senate that we’re past due to pass this important bill for the thousands of transgender New Yorkers who deserve equal protections under the law,” said Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Nathan M. Schaefer in a statement. “We’re at a critical juncture now and transgender visibility and civil rights are advancing swiftly. We risk our title as leader on civil rights when New York fails to keep up with the pace of the country.”
With only a week left in the legislative session, it's unclear if the Senate will take up the bill for a vote with enough time for it to make its way to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk for a signature.
Since 2003, New York has provided employment, housing, and public accommodations protections for gay, lesbian, and bisexual citizens as a result of the state's Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act. At the time, protections on the basis of gender identity and expression were viewed as the bill's poison pill, and were removed with promises that trans-friendly legislators would address the issue of discrimination against trans New Yorkers at a later date. Unfortunately, even in a reliably blue state like New York, these types of standalone gender identity bills have proved challenging to pass.
Recently, however, increased visibility and policy progress surrounding trans rights have shown that such standalone legislation can be successful. Last month, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed into law the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, extending legal protections to the state's trans residents. If GENDA passes the State Senate, New York would be poised to become the 19th state to pass trans-specific nondiscrimination protections.
Just last week, the the New York State Department of Health issued updated guidelines pertaining to the documentation needed in order to change the gender marker on one's birth certificate, no longer requiring trans individuals born in the state to undergo gender-confirming surgery prior to updating their legal identification.