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New York Passes Trans Rights Bill, Conversion Therapy Ban

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New York State made history today, with both houses of the legislature passing bills to ban discrimination based on gender identity and to prohibit the use of conversion therapy on minors. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign both.

There has been a 16-year effort to pass the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA. “New York passed the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act in 2002, but GENDA never followed, despite passing the Democratic-led Assembly every year since 2008,” the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports.

Republicans have had a majority in the Senate for the past decade, but Democrats took control this month, allowing this and other pieces of progressive legislation to move forward. GENDA adds gender identity and expression to New York's civil rights law, banning discrimination based on these characteristics in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

"After a protracted 16-year battle, the Democratic majority will finally be able to shield transgender and gender-nonconforming New Yorkers from discrimination and hate," said a statement issued by Sen. Brad Hoylman, the bill's sponsor.

Cuomo enacted a ban on conversion therapy for minors several years ago by executive order, but today’s action codifies the ban in state law. His executive order could have been rescinded by a future governor. New York is the 15th state to pass such a law.

Likewise, in the absence of GENDA, the state had issued regulations prohibiting discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender identity, but the passage of the law strengthens its stance. Cuomo called the bill "an issue of basic fairness."

Praise for New York lawmakers' action poured in from LGBTQ groups and more.

“Today’s historic action in New York is the result of years of hard work and it is a vivid illustration of the importance of electing pro-equality lawmakers,” said a statement issued by Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin. “Due to the efforts of countless advocates and leaders, transgender New Yorkers will now be explicitly protected from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and LGBTQ youth will be protected from the dangerous, debunked practice of so-called conversion therapy. This is a monumental day for fairness and equality across the Empire State.”

“Passing GENDA is a long overdue action to protect one of the most vulnerable communities in our state. Transgender New Yorkers still face disproportionate rates of violence, discrimination, and harassment and this law is an important step in combating that injustice. Lambda Legal expresses great appreciation to the New York Legislature for prioritizing passage of GENDA in its first week in session,” said Ethan Rice, senior attorney with Lambda Legal's Fair Courts Project, in a press release. “GENDA enshrines in New York State’s Human Rights Law explicit protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. While New York state and federal courts across the country have ruled that sex discrimination protections extend to discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression, GENDA sends a clear and unequivocal message that New York will not tolerate discrimination against transgender and gender-nonconforming people. This long awaited law will ensure transgender and gender nonconforming people have legal recourse when confronted with discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and employment.”

“Lambda Legal applauds the critical step the State of New York took in the campaign to stop so-called conversion therapy across the country,” said Currey Cook, a Lambda Legal attorney and director of its Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project . “New York joins 14 other states, the District of Columbia, and numerous municipalities that have passed similar laws or ordinances banning this harmful and widely discredited practice used on children.  No child should be subjected to these dangerous efforts to try to change who they are, especially when those methods cause lifelong trauma and have been condemned by every mainstream psychological, social science and child welfare organization.”

“Days like this demonstrate that despite the attacks coming at us from the Trump administration in Washington, D.C., states are forging ahead in the fight for full LGBTQ equality and acceptance,” said a statement issued by Zeke Stokes, vice president of orograms at GLAAD. “New York can be a model for the nation when it comes to standing up for transgender and non-binary people, who deserve to be treated fairly and equally under the law.”

“We are proud that the New York legislators have acted decisively today to protect LGBTQ youth from the harms of so-called conversion therapy. We are grateful for Governor Cuomo’s leadership on this issue, and eagerly await his signature on this vital legislation,” said Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project. “As much as New York is renowned for being friendly to LGBTQ people, we at the Trevor Project know that thousands of young New Yorkers have made use of our suicide prevention and crisis intervention services in the last year alone. Conversion therapy-related issues come up frequently, and the stories these youth tell us about being forced to try to change who they are or who they love would break your heart. Today’s votes will save lives.”

“After six years working alongside Assemblymember Glick and Senator Hoylman, I’m proud to see this bill pass for the first time by the New York State Senate,” said conversion therapy survivor Mathew Shurka, cofounder of the National Center for Lesbian Rights' Born Perfect campaign. “The trauma inflicted on me by conversion therapy is now illegal. This law will save many lives. What’s important now is to ensure that this law is enforced, as we know licensed conversion therapists continue to practice throughout the state. I look forward to Governor Cuomo signing the bill into law to finally protect LGBTQ youth – a promise he made in 2015, and a promise he said he’d fulfill in the first 100 days of 2019.”

"As a longtime LGBTQ activist, I am overjoyed by the state legislature's passage of GENDA," said a statement released by New York City Council LGBT Caucus chair Daniel Dromm. "Every single day, transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals must grapple with the fact that their very existence may lead to discrimination and violence.  GENDA, sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, will bring much-needed job, housing and other protections to these vulnerable New Yorkers when enacted.  Locally, my colleagues in the NYC Council and I have done much to advocate for transgender and gender-nonconforming people. Because of our advocacy, NYC boasts one of the strongest laws protecting these communities. Now all counties across the state will offer these protections as well. It is a great day to be a New Yorker."

"I commend the state legislature for passing legislation outlawing compensated gay conversion therapy for minors," Dromm added.  "For too long, LGBTQ youth in New York have been subject to the psychological torture known as 'conversion therapy,' pseudo-scientific treatments that aim to change one's sexual orientation from gay to straight. Mental health experts have long denounced this practice as quackery, with many in the field outlining the serous long-term mental health risks that it poses.  As a leader of the successful effort to ban this horrific practice in NYC, I am pleased that similar protections will now be extended to children living outside the city.  I applaud the legislation's prime sponsors, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Deborah Glick, for their commitment to this effort and thank Governor Cuomo for vowing to sign the bill into law."
 

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