New York State
After a milestone, lack of progress
Since same-sex marriage passed, bills to help the LGBT community have languished in the Legislature.
In 2015, state Sen. Brad Hoylman released a report detailing inaction by the state Senate to advance LGBT legislation following the passage of same-sex marriage in New York in 2011. He identified 14 bills that address LGBT issues that repeatedly failed to pass in the state Senate.
Three years later, not much has changed with those pieces of legislation.
Only one of the bills, which requires diaper changing stations in all publicly accessible bathrooms, has become law, thanks to its inclusion in the 2018-2019 state budget.
The other 13 bills have still not passed or even come up for a vote in the state Senate. Some have never even passed the Assembly. However, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has used executive power to implement certain changes in lieu of legislation.
The bill that has received the most attention of the dozen bills remaining is the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA, which would make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their gender identity. First introduced in 2003, GENDA has long been a priority for LGBT rights activists in the state. It has passed in the Assembly every year since 2008, but it has never made it to the floor for a vote in the state Senate. Most recently, the bill passed the Assembly in May, but failed to pass a committee vote in the state Senate.
“We haven’t even finished marriage equality. There’s some corrections to the marriage equality law that we can’t get brought to the floor of the Senate because of their bias against these bills.” – state Sen. Brad Hoylman
In October 2015, Cuomo did issue new regulations that imposed the same protections that GENDA would have, namely banning harassment and discrimination against transgender people. However, Hoylman told City & State that the regulations don’t cover everything, such as hate crime law protections, and that it is still important to codify protections in state law. “It’s a well-intentioned – and (I’m) appreciative of the effort on the part of the governor – but you need the state Legislature to bake protections for transgender people into place,” Hoylman said.
Another bill would make it illegal for therapists to perform so-called conversion therapy on minors, which is still allowed in the state with parental consent. The current version of that legislation passed the Assembly in March. In the state Senate, it made it out of the Higher Education Committee in May, but has not been put on the floor calendar for a vote. It instead was referred to another committee.
As in the case of GENDA, Cuomo stepped in with an executive order to address the matter, although only partially. While he did not ban the practice outright, he did make it illegal for the treatment to be covered by health insurance, a move applauded at the time by Hoylman.
Cuomo recently attempted to take action on legislation that would ban “gay panic” and “trans panic” as a defense in court, although the bill has never passed in the Assembly. The legal defense is generally used in murder or assault cases where an attorney argues the defendant acted violently in a state of temporary insanity as a result of unwanted advances from a gay or transgender person. Cuomo tried to include a ban of the defense as part of the 2018-2019 state budget, but it was removed.
Hoylman blamed Republicans for the failure to advance any of the legislation. “We haven’t even finished marriage equality,” Hoylman said. “There’s some, whether technical or corrections to the marriage equality law that we can’t get brought to the floor of the Senate because of their bias against these bills.”
Since his report was released in 2015, seven additional LGBT bills have been introduced in the state Legislature, all of which have similarly stalled. However, Hoylman said he hopes if Democrats manage to take the state Senate, the bills can finally pass.
“It’s a shame that these types of fundamental human rights issues are partisan,” Hoylman said, “but apparently, that’s the way my Republican colleagues see it.”
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