January 20, 2016 at 2:18 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Cuomo order against anti-trans discrimination in N.Y. takes effect

Andrew Cuomo, gay news, Washington Blade

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo executive order against anti-transgender discrimination has taken effect. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The executive order signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo effectively barring discriminating against transgender people in New York took effect on Wednesday.

In a statement, Cuomo announced the New York State Division of Human Rights has adopted new regulations to make clear discrimination and harassment against transgender people is prohibited under the New York Human Rights Law.

“Today we are sending the message loud and clear that New York will not stand for discrimination against transgender people,” Cuomo said. “It is intolerable to allow harassment or discrimination against anyone, and the transgender community has been subjected to a second-class status for far too long. This is an issue of basic justice and I am proud that New York is continuing to lead the way forward.”

Consistent with legal interpretations anti-transgender discrimination constitutes gender discrimination under the law, the regulations expand the definition of “sex” as defined under state law to include gender identity and transgender status. New York Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, education, credit, and access to public accommodations.

In October, Cuomo announced he had signed the order expanding the definition of sex to include transgender people at a fundraising dinner for the Empire State Pride Agenda. Much to the chagrin of many LGBT advocates, the organization has since announced it will close down, saying the Cuomo’s action completed the chief mission of the organization.

According to Cuomo’s statement, if the New York State Division finds probable cause anti-transgender harassment or discrimination occurred, the Commissioner of Human Rights will decide the case after a public hearing. Consequences for violating the law include payment of job, housing or other benefits, back and front pay, compensatory damages for mental anguish, civil fines and penalties. Policy changes and training also may be required as appropriate.

Civil fines and penalties can be up to $50,000 or up to $100,000 if the discrimination is found be “willful, wanton or malicious,” the statement says, and, unlike under federal law, compensatory damages to individuals are not capped.

Doug Wirth, CEO of the New York City-based health care group Amida Care, praised Cuomo for making the change in a statement to the Washington Blade.

“Amida Care applauds Gov. Cuomo for acting to prevent discrimination against transgender New Yorkers, which has a powerful positive impact on the health and well-being of the transgender community,” Wirth said. “Offering transgender New Yorkers protection from discrimination in employment, housing, and other barriers to care is a life-saving step towards a healthier New York.”

According to Amida Care, the organization has been a local pioneer for transgender health and 7 percent of its members identify as transgender.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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