In one of those inexpiable political twists, what seems to have been a far bigger lift — marriage equality —passed the state legislature two years ago, while bills to protect transgender New Yorkers keep dying. Now, the state’s two U.S. Senators, Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, are making it clear that the state should correct that problem and pass the Gender Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) in the current session.
“We are proud of the great strides that have been made in the pursuit of fairness, justice and equality in recent years in our state, most recently with the passage of marriage equality for all New Yorkers, which we strongly supported,” the senators said in a letter. “Yet, the push for full equality has left thousands of our friends and neighbors behind; currently, transgender New Yorkers lack the statewide protections many take for granted. This measure would amend the New York human rights law to extend non-discrimination protections in employment, housing, public accommodations and access to credit to transgender New Yorkers. Passage of this bill will be a vital step on the path towards the goal of achieving equal protection for all.”
GENDA has been passed by the state Assembly for six years in a row, but has failed to get a vote in the state Senate. Whether the letter will change the byzantine ways of the Senate isn’t clear. But the letter does provide Schumer some important political cover when he needs it. He’s facing LGBT activists unhappy with his handling of an amendment to add protections for same-sex bi-national couples to the immigration reform bill. Schumer has been hedging on the amendment, citing fears that may derail the entire reform bill. A recent meeting between LGBT activists and Schumer was described as “heated” at times, which probably makes Schumer happy to take advantage of GENDA to remind his constituents he is supportive of them — usually.