The New York Civil Liberties Union today applauded the State Assembly for passing the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) – a bill that would amend the state’s human rights law to protect individuals against discrimination based upon their gender identity or gender expression.

Gender identity and expression refers to the way people present their masculinity or femininity to the world. The Assembly passed the bill in a bipartisan vote of 78 to 53.

“We commend the Assembly for voting to correct a glaring omission in the state’s human rights law,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “The Senate must quickly follow suit and pass this and the marriage bill before the session ends.”

When the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) was finally passed in 2002, it failed to include protections against discrimination based on gender identity and expression. This oversight leaves transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers vulnerable to discrimination that creates barriers to employment, housing and basic services.

GENDA will protect transgender and gender non-conforming people against discrimination in areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, education and credit.

The Assembly passed GENDA in 2008, but the measure stalled in the Senate. Many of New York’s counties, cities, towns and employers already prohibit discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people, including New York City, Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Ithaca, Rochester and Suffolk County. Thirteen states and Washington, D.C. have anti-discrimination laws covering gender identity and expression.

“It is shameful that our state with its proud progressive tradition has fallen behind on this important civil rights issue,” Lieberman said. “Now it’s time for the Senate to get on the right side of history and pass GENDA and the marriage bill immediately.”