Activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights lobbied in Albany Tuesday for a bill that would fight discrimination against transgender people in New York.
The Empire State Pride Agenda, an advocacy group, gathered 700 activists near the state Capitol for a morning of talking to lawmakers and an afternoon rally.
The groups are pushing the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which adds “gender identity or expression” as protected under the state’s human rights law. Supporters argue it would protect transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing, education and health care.
UPDATE: The state Assembly on Tuesday passed GENDA for the sixth time. It has never come up for a full vote on the Senate floor.
Nathan Schaefer, executive director of the Pride Agenda, said Tuesday he’s hopeful the bill will have a better chance in the state Senate this year than in the past.
“There’s a new Senate. There’s a different leadership. And we believe that that may lend itself to success,” Schaefer said. “We have the support of every member of the IDC, so I hope that that will prove very fruitful at the end of the day.”
He said 10 municipalities in the state, including the city of Rochester, have local protections for transgender people. But a state law would cover the areas without those laws.
Assemblyman Harry Bronson, a Democrat from Rochester who is openly gay, addressed the activists Tuesday morning, encouraging them to tell lawmakers about the difficulties people in the LGBT community often face.
“Roughly 60 percent of our transgender brothers and sisters have protected by local, GENDA-like laws. But that’s not enough,” Bronson said.
Those who do are not covered by such laws, or when transgender people move or travel, they’re “at risk” of facing discrimination, he said.
“They’re at risk of being denied services at restaurants. They’re at risk about being denied things that we have full access for. We need to change that,” he continued.
UPDATE: During Assembly debate Tuesday, lawmakers raised concerns about potential unintended consequence of the bill.
Some lawmakers oppose the bill, arguing that it would enable abuses where people who were not transgender used the law to justify inappropriate behavior. Opponents presented the hypothetical situation of a man entering a women’s bathroom with the intent to spy on or harm the women inside.
The bill passed 84-46.