They’ve been waiting for 12 years. And earlier this week, Central New York civil rights advocates learned that both chambers of the state legislature passed a measure that protects gender identity. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA, was previously approved in the assembly, but never the senate. Central New York Chapter Director of the NYCLU Yusuf Abdul-Qadir says it’s timely given the Trump administration’s attacks on gender non-conforming people.
"It would prohbit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations like hospitals, doctor's offices, businesses that serve the public. It's a fundamental protection in the human rights law."
He says New York joins 18 other states and Washington DC in extending such protections. Abdul-Qadir says they’re clearly needed. There are no local statistics, but a national transgender survey in 2015 found 30 percent reported discrimination in the workplace, 23 percent in housing, and 31 percent in public services like health care or restrooms. Abdul-Qadir says that’s not all.
"Not to diminish these real issues, but what's concering is the amount of attacks: As high as 46 percent, 10 percent being sexually assaulted, while 9 percent were otherwise physically attacked. Onondaga County has been representive of some of the types of things we've seen across the country. Whether we have a profound problem here or not, those protections are preserved for all citizens across the state."
He says Central New Yorkers can report discrimination against any minority group to the NYCLU, and through a web platform called Equality Watch NY.
Abdul-Qadir says there’s a lot of energy and excitement surrounding the possibilities presented by the new democratic majority in the senate. They also approved voting reforms this week.
"The franchise is one of the most fundamental expressions of our democracy. Doing same day registration and other reforms are really important steps forward in that direction."
He’s also optimistic about expanded reproductive health measures. He and others will gather in Albany on Tuesday to push them across the finish line. The NYCLU is also watching how lawmakers fund education in Syracuse, and the all-important decision surrounding the future of I-81.