The New York Civil Liberties Union today applauded the Syracuse Common Council’s passage of legislation amending local civil rights law to protect transgender and gender non-conforming residents from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, such as restaurants, hotels and stores.

In an 7 to 1 vote, the Common Council approved a bill to amend the Syracuse Fair Practices Law to include gender identity and expression as protected categories. With the passage of this legislation, every large city in New York State has enacted basic civil rights protections for transgender and gender non-conforming residents and visitors. Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, Binghamton, Ithaca, New York City as well as Westchester, Suffolk, and Tompkins counties have similar local anti-discrimination laws.

"In passing this legislation, the Common Council has reaffirmed our city’s commitment to respecting the civil rights and basic human dignity of all residents," Barrie Gewanter, director of the NYCLU’s Central New York Chapter, said. "Nobody should be denied service at a doctor’s office or fired from a job because of the way they express their gender. We applaud the Common Council for closing this gap in local anti-discrimination laws across upstate New York."

The New York State Senate has effectively blocked consideration of a statewide law that would explicitly prohibit discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people. The passage of the Syracuse bill, which was sponsored by Councilor at Large Jean Kessner, builds additional momentum for this statewide measure, known as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA).

"The strength of people’s civil rights protections shouldn’t depend on whether they live in an urban area," Gewanter said. "It’s time for our state legislators to stand up for true equality and fairness by supporting GENDA."