Editorial: Extend civil rights to all New Yorkers

GENDA bill would expand state legal protections against discrimination to transgender community

In September 2017, DeAnna LeTray of Watertown was arrested in an altercation with her daughter’s boyfriend, during which she says the boyfriend pointed a gun at her.

At the police station, officers verbally harassed her, forced her to remove her wig against her will and later she was stripped naked and sexually assaulted.

The state Division of Human Rights rejected her request for an investigation.

Renata Ramos was a 57-year-old Latina caterer in New York City who lost a catering job because the business owner was allegedly concerned about “how their customers would react” to her. She was repeatedly told by employers that there were no open positions for which she could apply, even though she was well-qualified.

In 2015, Danielle, an Applebee’s hostess in the Westchester County hamlet of Hawthorne, was harassed and mocked by coworkers and subjected to crude and sexually explicit remarks. She was fired after two weeks on the job, despite never once having been disciplined.

It doesn’t seem right, does it. That’s because it’s not.

As a society, we have an obligation to protect all of our fellow human beings from discriminatory behavior, regardless of their gender, race, religion or political affiliation. Yet in New York state, one group of human beings doesn’t have full protection.

All of the people cited above belong to the transgender community. 

New York lawmakers have an opportunity to remedy institutional and legal discrimination against these individuals by passing GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act.

The bill (A0747/S1047) would add gender identity and gender expression as a protected class in the state’s human rights and hate crimes laws and ensure protection in housing, employment and other areas.

“The failure to provide such equal opportunity, whether because of discrimination, prejudice, intolerance or inadequate education, training, housing or health care not only threatens the rights and proper privileges of its inhabitants, but menaces the institutions and foundation of a free democratic state and threatens the peace, order, health, safety and general welfare of the state and its inhabitants,” the bill eloquently states.

Its purpose, it says, “is to ensure that individuals who live in our free society have the capacity to make their own choices, follow their own beliefs and conduct their own lives as they see fit.”

This bill is not about endorsing or encouraging the way people live their lives. It’s about protecting the fundamental right of citizens to live as they choose without being subjected to discrimination and threats.

As Americans, as New Yorkers and as human beings, we’re all entitled to that.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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