New York governor signs gay rights bill

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 19 2002 1:00 AM ET

Republican New York governor George Pataki has signed a bill into law that outlaws discrimination against gay men and lesbians in the state, 31 years after advocates began lobbying for it. The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act protects people from sexual orientation-based abuse, harassment, and discrimination in employment, housing, education, and public services. The passage of SONDA makes New York the 13th state to prohibit antigay bias. Pataki received an endorsement for reelection from the Empire State Pride Agenda, the largest gay and lesbian group in the state, after the Republican state senate said in October that it would take up the bias bill. The senate passed SONDA on Tuesday by a vote of 34-26. The state assembly approved the measure in January--as it has every year since 1993.

"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," said Matt Foreman, executive director of ESPA.

"The bill itself is a step in the wrong direction," said Sen. Serphin Maltese. "We cannot legislate politeness...the way people feel. That comes through mutual respect."

A proposed amendment to SONDA to add specific protections for transgendered residents--ranging from cross-dressers to people undergoing sex-change procedures--failed, 19-41.