Victory: New York Passes Transgender Nondiscrimination Protections

After a 16-year battle, New York updates state law to protect transgender New Yorkers, becoming 20th state with explicit and comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people

NEW YORK – Today the New York legislature passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, providing explicit protections for transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing, public spaces, and education. GENDA was passed in the Assembly by 100-40 and approved by a vote of 42-19 in the Senate. It now heads to Governor Cuomo for his signature. With his signature, New York becomes the 20th state in the nation to provide comprehensive and explicit protection for LGBTQ people. New York legislators also passed a ban today that prohibits so-called “conversion therapy” on LGBTQ people.

“After nearly two decades of tireless work by local advocates, transgender New Yorkers are now fully protected from discrimination under state law,” said Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans. “As one of the most populous states in America and home to a vibrant LGBTQ population, the victory in New York will have a transformative impact on equal treatment in America. In this moment when the future of LGBTQ rights in our nation seems uncertain, protections at the state level are more important than ever. The Empire State is known for our nation’s core values of freedom and opportunity, and today’s vote in support of GENDA reflects that those values remain vibrantly held. New York legislators have lived up to their state’s reputation as an inclusive place for all people.”

New York legislators introduced the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) every year for over a decade, but it previously remained stalled in the state Senate. This year, Governor Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins both quickly identified GENDA as a top priority after the midterm elections. Cuomo issued an executive order in 2015 which provided some nondiscrimination protections to transgender people, but executive orders are susceptible to reversal by future administrations and protections were not codified in state law. GENDA builds on Governor Cuomo’s previously issued regulations and now ensure the strongest possible, comprehensive, and explicit nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

The timing of the victory is also symbolic: this June marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City which, led by transgender women of color, sparked the birth of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. New York is now home to approximately 700,000 LGBTQ people. Transgender advocates from organizations such as Gender Equality New York have been working toward this victory for nearly two decades, after lawmakers removed gender identity protections from the nondiscrimination bill that became known as the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA).

“Today New York sent the strong message that our state supports the free expression of gender identity and the right of gender-expansive New Yorkers to be our authentic selves,” said Juli Grey-Owens, Board Chair & Executive Director of Gender Equality New York, a statewide advocacy organization led by and for transgender people. “We thank our leaders in the Assembly and Senate who have supported our community with explicit and permanent protections from discrimination. The passage of GENDA not only represents the final chapter in the fight for legislative equality, but also sends a strong message across our state that there will no longer be any excuse for discrimination against those who are transgender and non-binary.”

Bipartisan momentum is building for LGBTQ protections nationwide. In just the last five weeks, six governors have signed executive orders prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees – including outgoing Governors John Kasich (OH) and Rick Snyder (MI), and new Governors Mike DeWine (OH), Gretchen Whitmer (MI), Tony Evers (WI), and Laura Kelly (KS). The new U.S. House majority has also indicated they plan to prioritize the Equality Act which would provide explicit and comprehensive nondiscrimination protections to all LGBTQ Americans.


Freedom for All Americans is the bipartisan campaign to secure full nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people nationwide. 

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BY MELANIE NATHAN, mostly a mom!
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