Patterson to Extend Protection to Transgender Employees in New York


New York—Just two weeks after the New York State Senate voted down a bill that would have made it legal for same-sex couples to marry, Governor Patterson will sign an executive order extending protection from discrimination on the basis of gender identity or gender expression.

This measure, which Patterson is expected to sign on Wednesday during a ceremony held at Greenwich Village’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, is the broadest protection yet offered to transgender public employees on a statewide basis. Several cities within the state, including Rochester, Buffalo, Albany, and the city of New York, have already made it illegal to discriminate against an individual because of their gender identity or expression. Yet no such law exists on the state level.

Advocates for transgender rights have been working for years to pass a law through the State Legislature. Thirteen other states, as well as the District of Columbia, have prohibited discrimination against not only those individuals who have undergone gender reassignment surgery or who cross-dress, but also those whose outward appearance and expression of gender are at odds with their biological gender. Additionally, more than 100 cities and counties in the United States offer similar legal protections.

The new executive order, however, will not extend the legal protection of transgender people to the private sector. It will only be applicable to state employees who work under the authority of the executive branch.

The State Assembly has already passed a measure called the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which would not only outlaw discrimination against transgender people in areas of everyday life—just as current laws protect people from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, and sexual orientation—but would also add gender identity or expression a category under the state’s hate crimes law. Transgender people are particularly vulnerable to hate crimes and also face discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation.

“This will bring New York up to par with other states that are taking the lead on workplace fairness,” said Dru Levasseur, an attorney who specializes in transgender rights at Lambda Legal, the national LGBT equality advocacy group.

The New York State Senate voted on December 2 to deny marriage equality for same-sex couples. Governor Patterson had previously gone on the record to say that while he did not expect the measure to pass, he pushed it to the legislature in order to open up discussion on the issue. Yet the vote, which was 38-to-24, was more decisive than marriage equality advocates had expected.

Patterson will be joined by leading LGBT rights activists at a high-profile ceremony to sign the order.


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