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N.Y. State Assembly Passes Trans-Protection Bill

by Steve Weinstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday June 4, 2008

On June 3, the New York State Assembly overwhelmingly (102-33) to amend the state's human rights law to include anti-discrimination protections based upon gender identity and expression. The bill known as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA, bans discrimination against transgender people in housing, employment, credit, public accommodations, and other areas of everyday life.

"The Assembly has solidly demonstrated once again that it is the leader on civil rights and providing equality for our community where it didn't exist before in New York," Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle said in a press release.

Manhattan assemblymembers drove the bill, which was first introduced back in 2003. Like the national debate over the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), this bill caused some debates and hard feelings inside the LGBT coalition and outside. But this time, GENDA managed to snare a record 74 co-sponsors.

"I can think of years of personal struggle in the job market and workplace without any legal protection," said New York City transgender activist Melissa Sklarz, "and am now hopeful that there is a real chance that the next generation of transgender New Yorkers will not face these same difficulties."

The bill faces an uncertain future in the State Senate, where Republicans hold a slim (and ever-more tenuous) majority. Governor David Paterson has already said that he will sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk. Some Senate Republicans, especially those in more liberal districts, have indicated they will support the bill, which bodes well for passage.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).

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