Report backs human rightsFordham Law School in timesunion, May 02, 2012
ALBANY — A report released Wednesday by the New York Civil Liberties Union documents discrimination and harassment against transgender people and urges the state Senate to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, known as GENDA, which passed the Assembly on Monday.
The report, prepared with the help of the Fordham University School of Law faculty and students, builds upon recent momentum following a precedent-setting federal ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission two weeks ago that set a legal precedent prohibiting workplace discrimination against transgender people.
"There have been good developments on the federal level, but we still need GENDA to make the law crystal-clear, uniform and consistent in New York," said Melissa Goodman, the NYCLU's senior litigation and policy counsel.
The report, titled "Advancing Transgender Civil Rights and Equality in New York: The Need for GENDA," blends personal narratives with survey results to show widespread harassment and discrimination against transgender people, defined as those whose gender identity, appearance, behavior or expression differs from their genetic sex at birth. The legislation also covers those who identify themselves as gender nonconforming because the way they express their gender may run counter to traditional, mainstream cultural views of gender.
A 2009 national survey that included 531 transgender people in New York found that 74 percent reported harassment or mistreatment on the job and 20 percent lost a job or were denied a promotion. In addition, 53 percent were verbally harassed or denied service at hotels and restaurants and 49 percent reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance. Also, 18 percent had become homeless because of their transgender status and 27 percent were either denied an apartment or were evicted. And 17 percent were refused medical care due to their gender expression, the survey said.
"Nobody should be turned away from a doctor's office or fired from a job because of how they express their gender," said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director. "Ending this discrimination is a matter of essential civil and human rights. GENDA is nonpartisan legislation that merits the support of every elected leader in New York state."
The Assembly bill, which had 54 sponsors including Democrats and Republicans, passed Monday by a vote of 80 to 55. It was the fifth time that the Assembly has passed GENDA, but each time it has stalled in the Senate.
The bill now goes to the Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee.
Currently, the cities of Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Binghamton, New York City and Rochester, as well as Tompkins and Suffolk counties, have enacted local versions of GENDA. In addition, 16 states, Washington, D.C. and more than 140 localities nationwide have passed GENDA legislation.
The NYCLU report was released in advance of Equality & Justice Day on May 8, when hundreds of transgender people and advocates will gather at the Capitol to lobby for Senate passage of GENDA. So far, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a champion of last year's historic marriage equality law, has not explicitly stated his position on GENDA.
"New York is really falling behind on transgender rights," Goodman said. "We were a leader in the marriage fairness fight. It's really time for New York to be the same kind of leader in the transgender equality fight."
The NYCLU report, which was sent to the state's 212 legislators Wednesday, concluded that there would be no additional cost to the state for enacting GENDA.