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New York's Gov. Cuomo Signs Trans Rights Bill, Conversion Therapy Ban

Andrew Cuomo

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this morning signed bills into law that ban anti-transgender discrimination and the use of conversion therapy on minors.

The state Senate and Assembly had passed both bills January 15.

The Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA, had passed the Assembly in every session since 2008 but had failed to clear the Republican-led Senate. Now Democrats have a majority in both chambers, a key factor in the bill’s success. It adds gender identity and expression to New York's civil rights law, banning discrimination based on these characteristics in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The law had included sexual orientation since 2002.

The conversion therapy bill prohibits licensed therapists from subjecting minors to the discredited and harmful practice of trying to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

"As the most progressive state in the nation and as the home of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, New York has always been on the front lines fighting for full protections for every individual," Cuomo said at the signing ceremony at the New York City LGBT Community Center. "By signing into law GENDA and a ban on the fraudulent practice of conversion therapy, we are taking another giant step forward in advancing equal justice for every New Yorker - regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. We are once again sending a clear and proud message that there is no place for hate in our state, and anyone who engages in bigotry and discrimination will be held accountable."

In the absence of legislative action, Cuomo had issued executive orders and regulations having the same effect as the two new laws, but those could have been undone by a future governor. New York is now the 20th state, plus the District of Columbia, to have a law banning discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. One state, Wisconsin, has a law covering sexual orientation only, and several states have bans including both characteristics but covering only state workers. The conversion therapy ban makes New York the 15th state with such a law, and several cities and counties have adopted similar laws.

LGBTQ advocates praised both pieces of legislation. “Legal protection from violence and discrimination is part of building an inclusive society where everybody can thrive, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said a statement issued by Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for the Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people. “The passage of GENDA into law is a tangible sign of hope for the youth who contact the Trevor Project’s crisis intervention services every day. We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for his leadership in signing this important legislation.”

Of the conversion therapy ban, he said, “We’re grateful for the governor’s efforts to end this harmful practice via regulation and now official legislation, sending a strong message to LGBTQ youth that they don’t need to fear being subjected to so-called conversion therapy.”

"It has been long been overdue for New York State to end the deplorable practice known as conversion therapy, especially given the escalation in attacks coming from this federal administration," Shijuade Kadree, chief advocacy officer of the New York City LGBT Community Center, added in a prepared statement. “We are thrilled that our state electeds have finally demonstrated that they will step up to protect its residents, ridding us of a medically discredited practice that targets the most vulnerable -- our youth -- simply for being themselves. New York has shown that when our federal government fails to protect us, states have the power and promise to advance progressive laws that create affirming spaces for all." 

Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin issued this statement: “Today, with Governor Cuomo’s signature, New York has made bold, historic progress by making GENDA the law of the land and banning the abusive and life-threatening practice of so-called conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth. These laws will literally save lives, and their passage would not have been possible without the tireless work of advocates and allies across New York over the last decade. We also owe today’s celebration in large part to Senator [Brad] Hoylman and Assemblymembers [Richard] Gottfried and [Deborah] Glick for their strong leadership on this legislation, and to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, who made them a top priority this session.”

This came from Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD: “Governor Andrew Cuomo today reaffirmed what millions of New Yorkers already know: LGBTQ people are born perfect, and our lives should be celebrated – not silenced. At a time when the nation is living with a president whose agenda includes turning back the clock on LGBTQ progress, it’s reassuring to have allies like the New York State Legislature and Governor Cuomo advocating for full acceptance for all marginalized communities.”  

Watch Cuomo speak on the bills below.

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