Governor Andrew Cuomo announced tonight an executive action directing the State Division of Human Rights to issue regulations that would interpret existing protections against discrimination on the basis of sex and disability to cover gender identity, transgender status and gender dysphoria.

Gov. Cuomo’s executive action comes after the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act (GENDA), which the New York Civil Liberties Union has long advocated for, failed in the legislature during the 2015 session. GENDA would explicitly clarify that gender identity and gender expression are protected characteristics under New York State’s antidiscrimination laws, alongside other categories including sexual orientation, race, religion and disability.

The following statement is attributable to NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman.

“With this executive action, Gov. Cuomo has made it clear that his administration is committed to protecting transgender and gender nonconforming people in New York State.

The hundreds of thousands of transgender and gender nonconforming people in New York State deserve freedom from harassment, mistreatment and exclusion. For too long New Yorkers who are transgender have been fired from their jobs, denied housing and services, and mistreated in the workplace, in stores and in restaurants because their gender identity or expression did not have clear legal protection.

The regulations that the governor is proposing are a major step forward toward ensuring fairness and freedom for all New Yorkers. The proposed regulations, as reported, will clarify that transgender and gender nonconforming people are protected by the Human Rights Law from discrimination, that they can seek recourse from the State Division of Human Rights when they are subject to discrimination and harassment, and that the division will use its enforcement powers to prevent future discrimination.

These clear legal protections go a long way toward allowing transgender New Yorkers to enjoy dignity, respect and access to opportunity in New York. However, in order to ensure full equality there is more work to do. Gender identity and gender expression should be explicitly included as protected categories under New York State’s Human Rights Law, on equal footing with other protected classes including sexual orientation, race, religion and disability. By enacting GENDA, New York can establish itself as a leader in protecting and respecting the rights of all.”

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