Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan called upon to bring the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, better known as GENDA, to a vote in the Senate during 2017 legislative session.
New York, NY - February 20, 2017 - Hundreds of transgender advocate and ally organizations and prominent New York citizens delivered a critical letter calling on Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan to bring the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, better known as GENDA, to a vote in the Senate during 2017 legislative session.
The letter, which contains signatures from organizations and individuals across the state - including the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Empire Justice Center, NYSUT, the New York State United Teachers, the Ali Forney Center, PFLAG, Planned Parenthood, the League of Women Voters of New York State and many others, was organized, written, and processed by members of the statewide Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community.
Juli Grey-Owens, Lead Organizer for the statewide transgender rights coalition, points out that “There is an urgent need to pass this anti-discrimination legislation due to the backlash we are seeing on the state and federal level. The few existing federal transgender rights are on the chopping block with the current administration, and states all over the U.S. are preparing and passing unjust and hateful legislation.”
In the letter, advocates point out tangible economic costs to New York State when transgender discrimination takes place. These costs, which include public assistance programs and services to replace lost income and insurance coverage, directly affect New York State taxpayers. Additionally, many transgender people who are able to find employment often take jobs with much lower pay than the positions they held prior to their gender transition. The result is that state and federal governments receive lower income tax and other revenues. A 2013 Williams Institute report estimates employment discrimination cost the state over $1 million annually. Forcing transgender people out of housing has cost as much as $5.9 million annually in federal and state housing expenditures related to public assistance, homelessness, or temporary housing.
The letter also scolds Flanagan for his lack of effort in supporting the civil rights of his constituents. The letter states:
“You will recall that transgender advocates from Long Island and around the state have pleaded for your support of GENDA for years. You consistently told advocates and constituents that you would support the bill if it was ever brought to the Senate floor for a vote. As Senate Majority Leader, you have the power to move this desperately needed legislation to the Senate floor. The fact that for fourteen years the New York State Senate has failed to bring GENDA to the floor for a vote is an embarrassment to all New Yorkers who value equality.”
Members of the transgender community face severe discrimination and violence. In the recently released U.S. Transgender Survey, a national survey which examined the experiences of over 27,000 transgender people in the United States, it was reported that:
29% of the respondents were living in poverty, which is two (2) times the rate of the U.S. population
30% reported being fired, denied a promotion, or mistreated on the job
30% reported being homeless at one time in their life
40% of the respondents had attempted suicide
Transgender activists and allies have been fighting for passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which seeks to expand the existing human rights law to include gender identity and expression, since 2003. Governor Cuomo, who has publicly supported the bill, issued regulations in a 2016 executive action that interpreted existing protections against discrimination on the basis of “sex” and “disability” to cover gender identity, transgender status and gender dysphoria. However, these regulations did not change the text of the NYS Human Rights Law. There remains no mention of gender identity, gender expression, or transgender/gender non-conforming protections in the text of the law itself. Additionally, these regulations are not permanent and can be overturned by subsequent governors.
The New York State Assembly has passed GENDA for nine consecutive years. The State Senate has buried the bill in committee each year since 2003, refusing to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.