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NYCLU Supports City Council Human Rights Initiative

The New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union presented testimony today before the New York City Council on ground-breaking local human rights legislation: the Human Rights Government Operations Audit Law (Human Rights-GOAL).

Introduced by Councilmember Bill Perkins, the legislation seeks to strengthen local democracy and afford New Yorkers full and equal opportunity to participate in economic, educational, social, cultural and political activities. Drawing on universally recognized human rights principles, the bill mandates that city government has an affirmative obligation to prevent discrimination and promote equality in local programs and services.

“This legislation will enable city agencies to identify and put an end to discriminatory practices before the City ends up in court as a defendant in a lawsuit” said Robert Perry, Legislative Director of the NYCLU. “It creates public-private working groups charged with ensuring government programs, policies and practices are fair and equitable.”

The ACLU said a case that has been tied up in the courts for almost ten years, in which the U.S. Justice Department sued the Board of Education over its discriminatory practices in recruiting and hiring school custodians, might have been avoided had Human Rights-GOAL been in effect. The ACLU Women’s Rights Project is representing over 20 women and minority custodians who have been awarded settlements from the City to remedy the Board of Education’s systemic race and sex discrimination.

By conducting a human rights audit of city policies and practices, the bill seeks to prevent discrimination rather than rely on a legal remedy after the fact. As important as this analysis, however, is the requirement that City agencies, in collaboration with stakeholders in the communities served, design and implement a human rights action plan to remedy the discriminatory effect of government policies and practices, and to promote equality of opportunity.

A similar law was adopted and successfully implemented in San Francisco in 1988. Proposals modeled on the San Francisco ordinance have been introduced in other cities, including Los Angeles.

Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU, said: “This proposed legislation will help to fulfill the promise of our civil rights laws; it recognizes that the City has an affirmative obligation to prevent discrimination and promote equality of opportunity. The new law would institutionalize equality and fairness as principles of local governance.”

Click here to read the NYCLU’s testimony.

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