Sen. Daniel Squadron on fighting for basic rights for trans New Yorkers
Eleven counties in New York have passed laws protecting transgender people, but without statewide legislation, there are still thousands who still face discrimination. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) was first introduced in 2003 to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and expression, but has never passed in the state Senate. City & State spoke with state Sen. Daniel Squadron, who sponsors the bill, about why he’s pushing to get GENDA passed.
C&S: Why is it important that this bill gets passed?
DS: It’s critical that New York state makes clear in law that transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers can depend on the same rights – not to be fired, evicted or refused service – that most New Yorkers take for granted. It sends an important message when pro-equality, civil rights, pro-inclusion laws are passed. It has been shown to have positive impacts in reducing teen mental health and other mental health issues within the LGBT community and beyond.
C&S: What are some of the challenges that transgender people face?
DS: When you look at the state’s humans rights law, it makes it clear. It specifically deliniates gender, sexual orientation, national origin, race and a lot of other factors as factors for which people cannot be discriminated against. That means, you can’t be fired because of who you are, you can’t be evicted or refused a lease because of who you are, you can’t be refused service in a restaurant or at a public or private swimming pool because of who you are. And that’s what GENDA is meant to combat.
C&S: How would the lives of transgender New Yorkers change if GENDA was passed?
DS: I think of the people who have come to talk to me about this bill. Who talk about the fact that they were afraid about their work consequences when their employer found out they were transgender. They talk about being literally worried about their landlords discovering who they are because they, or a friend, or an acquaintance, has had a lease renewal rejected because of it. You talk to young people who are dealing with all the societal pressures of something that too often can lead to exclusion and rejection, both in the family and the community.
C&S: What’s the status of the bill?
DS: We are trying to push to get it passed. I was able to force a vote on the committee this year, we had a committee meeting about this and, unfortunately, every Republican on the committee voted against the bill and it failed in committee. But we are continuing to push.