Transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers too often face severe discrimination and harassment in their daily lives but are denied basic civil rights protections that other state residents take for granted, according to a report released today by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Policy and Legislative Advocacy Clinic at Fordham University School of Law.
The report, Advancing Transgender Civil Rights and Equality in New York: The Need for GENDA, calls on state legislators to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), legislation that will amend the state’s human rights law to protect individuals against discrimination based upon their gender identity or gender expression. GENDA will prohibit discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people in employment, housing, education, credit and public accommodations (such as service in a restaurant or store). Hundreds of New Yorkers from across the state will descend on Albany on Tuesday, May 8 to push for the passage of GENDA as part of the annual LGBT Equality and Justice Day.
“All New Yorkers deserve the freedom to go about their lives without facing harassment and discrimination,” said Melissa Goodman, NYCLU senior litigation and policy counsel. “New York State needs to declare with a unified voice that it will not tolerate people losing their access to homes, jobs, education and other basic services simply because of who they are. Our lawmakers must stand up for fairness by supporting GENDA, which will extend legal protections to all transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers.”
The report includes accounts of transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers who have encountered various forms of discrimination and harassment. For example, one of the individuals profiled was humiliated and initially refused service at medical clinic, where he sought treatment for bronchitis. “We don’t treat people like you here,” the clinic’s receptionist said.
These stories show how harassment and discrimination can affect nearly every aspect of life for the hundreds of thousands of transgender and gender non-conforming people who live in New York State. Pervasive bias makes it difficult for people to earn a living, find housing, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
“Nobody should be turned away from a doctor’s office or fired from a job because of how they express their gender,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “Ending this discrimination is a matter of essential civil and human rights. GENDA is non-partisan legislation that merits the support of every elected leader in New York State.”
Currently, state law prohibits discrimination on the basis of many different personal characteristics, such as sex, religion, sexual orientation and disability. But it does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on one’s gender identity and gender expression. This means that people who are fired from their jobs, denied housing and services, and mistreated in the workplace, in stores and in restaurants merely because of their appearance or gender identity do not have clear legal protection.
Anti-discrimination laws in 16 states and the District of Columbia explicitly provide protections for transgender and gender non-conforming people. Many cities and towns in New York State, including New York City, have recognized the right of transgender and gender non-conforming people to live free of prejudice and harassment and have enacted local anti-discrimination ordinances. But all New Yorkers deserve the same protection.
“Despite the pride New Yorkers take in ensuring fairness and freedom for all, New York has fallen behind in enacting civil protections based on gender identity and expression,” said Prof. Elizabeth B. Cooper, director of the Policy and Legislative Advocacy Clinic of Lincoln Square Legal Services, Inc., at Fordham University School of Law. “It’s up to our legislators to fix this glaring gap in our anti-discrimination laws and promote a more fair and just society.”