Yesterday Housing Works hosted an exhilarating press conference in Albany to launch a new campaign in support of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), calling for an end to the stalling of transgender civil rights in New York and a vote on the bill in 2013. GENDA bill sponsors New York State Senator Daniel Squadron and Assembly Member Richard Gottfried both passionately spoke to the need for New York to modernize its protections by passing GENDA and ensuring that transgender New Yorkers are given equal protections. New York State Senator Brad Hoylman also attended, drawing attention to the correlation between discrimination and the high rates of suicide among the transgender community. If GENDA becomes law, NY would join 16 states, the District of Columbia, and over 160 cities and counties with gender expression/identity protections.
Housing Works’ new GENDA campaign includes personal stories of Housing Works’ transgender advocates and clients, a series of infographics, postcards, and a Change.org petition urging the New York State Legislature to vote on the bill this year. The campaign materials will be rolled out over the next few weeks and are available to share and view at www.passgendanow.org.
Housing Works’ President and CEO Charles King opened the presser by recounting Housing Works’ history of GENDA advocacy, including the bill’s inception after the Sexual-Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) passed without gender-expression protections.
New York State Senator Daniel Squadron then took the floor, stating, “Thank you to Housing Works for this important new campaign, the entire GENDA coalition, Assemblyman Gottfried, and all those fighting for equality for all New Yorkers.”
Candidly, he told opponents of the bill, “Ignoring the facts about GENDA undermines the basic civil rights of so many New Yorkers. Make no mistake: it’s simply unacceptable that New Yorkers can lose their job or be evicted from their home because of their gender identity or expression. Countless other states have acted, but New York remains behind the curve,” he said. “It’s time for the Senate to finally pass GENDA and for New York to stand up for what’s right and ensure that all people—no matter how they identify—are treated with the fairness and dignity they deserve.”
Assembly Member Richard Gottfried also called on legislators to stop delaying the passage of the bill. “New York prides itself on being welcoming to all people and the broad range of human diversity, yet without GENDA we cannot end the discrimination against people because of their gender identity,” he said. “It is shameful that our state law lags behind the laws and policies of so many states, cities, counties and major employers across the country.”
Five of Housing Works’ transgender advocates and clients echoed these sentiments, taking to the podium to share personal stories of discrimination and the barriers they have faced in health care, employment, education, and public accommodations because of their gender identities. Housing Works advocate Tanya Walker, a U.S. veteran, stated, “I fought so I could live my life as a human being with civil rights, and I want other transgender veterans to know that I am fighting for them too.” Additionally, Rachael Therien noted, “GENDA respects people’s right to choose their own gender, for us and for the transgender youth who share our same struggles.”
Indeed, much of the advocacy around passing GENDA is to ensure that New York’s LGBT youth and their futures are protected from discrimination. No one spoke to this need more than New York State Senator Brad Hoylman. “As the parent of a young child, I think about the protections I’d want for my daughter if she were transgender,” he said. “I would want her to be treated with dignity and respect in a doctor’s office, school, on the streets, and everywhere else. But here in New York, there aren’t state laws to protect transgender people from discrimination in housing, education or employment. It’s little wonder, then, that more than half of all trans youth have contemplated suicide. We owe it to them–our children–to pass GENDA in the State Senate now.”
Over the last decade, GENDA has been passed by the NY Assembly in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, but has faced steep opposition from Senate Republicans, which has stalled the bill by refusing to bring it to a floor vote. The New York State Assembly is expected to pass GENDA this month.
Photos of yesterday’s press conference are available at New York State Senator Daniel Squadron’s Flickr page and Housing Works’ Facebook page. Photos taken by New York State Assembly Photography and New York State Senate Photography.