TRANSGENDER LAW & POLICY INSTITUTE

Press Release

New York City Council Votes to Include
Transgender People in its Human Rights Law

Contact: Paisley Currah, pcurrah@brooklyn.cuny.edu

April 24, 2002—After years of education, advocacy, and politicking at City Hall, transgender activists were able to celebrate today when the New York City Council passed a bill amending the city's Human Rights Law to include transgender people. With the expected support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City will soon become the 42nd jurisdiction in the United States to explicitly protect people from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in employment, housing, and public accommodations, according to the Transgender Law &Policy Institute (TLPI).

Transgender activists and advocates from the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA), the TLPI, the New York State Transgender Coalition, City Council Members Margarita Lopez, Bill Perkins, Christine Quinn, and Phil Reed have been working together for the past three years to ensure that transgender people are protected under the city's non-discrimination law. Last May, over 50 people testified at a hearing in favor of the bill, but it was never brought to a vote. This year, however, the election of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the support of new City Council Speaker Gif Miller changed the political landscape for the better. Yesterday, after hearing a number of transgender testify about the discrimination they face, the Council's General Welfare Committee voted in favor of the bill, 7-1, and today, the City Council voted to pass the bill with a vote of 45 to 5, with one abstention. Mayor Bloomberg has indicated he supports the legislation.

"Many people fell it is their privilege to judge me on my appearance," testified Carrie Davis, a counselor at the Gender Identity Project of the LGBT Community Center, at yesterday’s hearing. "I have been denied jobs, I have been denied housing. I have been denied services. I have been harassed and abused. I have been beaten and raped, and I have had my children taken away from me," said Davis, also a co-founder of NYAGRA and a board member of the International Foundation for Gender Equality.

"With this law, the City Council is sending a very clear signal to employers, to landlords, and to owners of public accommodations that this kind of discriminatory behavior is now illegal," said Paisley Currah, an associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, NYAGRA co-founder, and TLPI board member. "And as the largest jurisdiction by population in the U.S. to ban discrimination against transgender people, it might have a positive spillover effect elsewhere because it suggests to legislators in other cities that transgender inclusion will eventually become the norm in human rights laws."

According to the bill's legislative findings, the intent of the bill is "to make clear that all gender-based discrimination - including, but not limited to, discrimination based on an individual's actual or perceived sex, and discrimination based on an individual's gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression - constitutes a violation of the City's Human Rights Law." The legislation defines gender to include "actual or perceived sex and shall also include a person's gender identity, self image, appearance, behavior, or expression, whether or not that gender identity, self image, appearance, behavior, or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the legal sex assigned to that person at birth."

With the passage of the bill, Int. 24, New York City will be the third jurisdiction in New York state--the others are Rochester and Suffolk County--to pass such a bill. Two states, Minnesota and Rhode Island, and 39 other municipalities, have enacted similar laws. But the New York State Sexual Orientation Non-discrimination Act (SONDA), which is widely expected to pass this election year, does not include statutory language that would include people of transgender experience.

"The decision of state legislators and the Empire State Pride Agenda not to include transgender people is a real loss," said Currah, who was part of the legislative task force for the New York City bill and has extensively researched and written on transgender rights legislation. "When the leading gay rights group in the state will not support state-wide equality for transgender people, it shows the prevalence of discrimination against transgender people, and just how necessary passing this kind of legislation is for the transgender community."

The Transgender Law & Policy Institute is non-profit organization dedicated to engaging in effective advocacy for transgender people in our society. The TLPI brings experts together to work on law and policy initiatives designed to advance transgender equality. Visit us on the internet at http://www.transgenderlaw.org where charts and maps listing all U.S. jurisdictions with transgender inclusive human rights laws are available for downloading.

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