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New York Repeals 'Walking While Trans' Law

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday February 4, 2021

A New York law commonly referred to as "walking while trans" was repealed on Tuesday, NPR reports.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill to repeal the anti-loitering law, which critics allege had been abused by police to specifically harass and arrest transgender people. As EDGE reported last month, the law — on the books since 1976 — was intended to target prostitution, but contained vague language that allowed police to arbitrarily apprehend people on the basis of their appearance and dress.

In a statement, Governor Cuomo said, "repealing the archaic 'walking while trans' ban is a critical step toward reforming our policing system and reducing the harassment and criminalization transgender people face simply for being themselves."

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Democrat representing the 27th District, presented data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services from 2018 that showed 91 percent of those arrested under "walking while trans" were Black or Latinx, with 80 percent identifying as women.

HRC President Alphonso David said, "New Yorkers have been fighting for years to end what has become stop-and-frisk for transgender women of color, and the Walking While Trans ban enabled the profiling and arrest of transgender New Yorkers for doing nothing more than standing or walking on the street."

A 2016 lawsuit filed against New York City by the Legal Aid Society — on behalf of women and trans women of color — was settled in 2019 with the NYPD agreeing, as NPR notes, "to revise its Patrol Guide section on the penal law code."

Local district attorneys stopped enforcing the law, citing discrimination of the statute, and vacating bench warrants and their underlying charges.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.