The governor made the announcement during annual fall dinner for the statewide LGBT group known as the Empire State Pride Agenda. The event took place at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in New York City.
“It is intolerable to allow discrimination of transgender individuals and they are one of the most abused, harassed groups in society today,” Cuomo said. “Well it is New York State’s role, New York State’s responsibility, and New York State’s legacy to lead the way. And that’s exactly what we are going to do tonight my friends.”
Cuomo said he’s basing the regulations on New York’s Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of several categories, including sexual orientation. Although the law doesn’t explicitly mention gender identity, Cuomo said the law enables New York’s Division of Human Rights to interpret the law for enforcement purposes.
“Well, as Governor of New York, it is my opinion that in 2015 it is clear that the fair, legal interpretation and definition of a person’s sex includes gender identity and gender expression,” Cuomo said. “Therefore, I am directing the state Division of Human Rights to immediately issue regulations defining New York State’s anti-discrimination law to prohibit discrimination against trans-individuals in the state of New York.”
In 2009, former New York Gov. David Paterson issued an executive order prohibiting anti-trans discrimination. But that action only was extended to employment at state agencies, not the public sector, and didn’t apply to housing or public accommodations.
Transgender advocates in New York have sought to amend state code with the legislation known as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act to extend protections on gender identity, but have been unsuccessful thus far.
Nathan Schaefer, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, said in a statement the regulatory changes have the full force law in New York.
“After years of tireless advocacy, we’ve won a tremendous victory for transgender civil rights with Gov. Cuomo’s announcement tonight,” Schaefer said.
Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Oakland, California-based Transgender Law Center, is now counting New York as the 20th state to explicitly prohibit anti-trans discrimination and harassment.
“As we’ve painfully witnessed again and again this year, transgender people face epidemic rates of violence, harassment, and discrimination in this country,” Hayashi said. “Explicit protections based on gender identity and expression, like those New York is adopting and which 19 other states have in place, are a critical part of creating a society where all people can survive and thrive.”