Under the Trump Administration, the federal government has dismantled LGBT rights across the country. Despite statements of support, it’s clear that members of the LGBT community are facing very real threats in today’s society. Rollbacks on legal protections deny the LGBT community equal rights. Fortunately, some states have made it a priority to pass legislation that supports, rather than harms, its LGBT citizens.
New York Law Prohibits Transgender Discrimination
Earlier this year, New York State lawmakers passed one of the country’s strongest transgender rights protection laws. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) extends state anti-discrimination protections to non-binary and transgender individuals.
Under the new law, it will be illegal to discriminate against transgender people. This will apply to housing, employment, and public accommodations. Governor Cuomo has publically stated that he will sign the bill when it hits his desk later this year.
Voters Responsible For GENDA’s Success
This isn’t the first time GENDA has been put up for a vote in New York. In fact, lawmakers in New York have been voting on GENDA for the past 16 years. The last time a vote was taken the anti-discrimination law was narrowly defeated, thanks to a Republican stronghold on the Assembly. That was back in 2015 before Donald Trump’s election shocked the nation.
Since Trump’s election, voters across the country have overwhelmingly supported more progressive candidates for local, state, and federal offices. Voters in New York made it clear that they wanted representatives who reflected their own morals and beliefs. As a result, New York’s legislative bodies have shifted control to lawmakers who are much more supportive of LGBT rights.
Legislation Strongest Option for LGBT Anti-Discrimination Laws
There are several ways to change the law and extend legal protections to the LGBT community. For example, the governor of a state has certain executive powers. An executive order can bypass traditional legislative procedures. After GENDA failed in 2015, Cuomo signed an executive order prohibiting transgender discrimination.
Executive orders don’t have the same power and longevity as formal legislation. While the orders can have an immediate impact on society, it is far too easy to roll back any protections that are extended. Executive orders can be nullified by a court or rolled back by the next person to reside in the Governor’s mansion. In turn, executive orders are not the best option for extending permanent rights to members of the LGBT community.
The best way to protect transgender, gay, and lesbian citizens is to pass laws in the traditional sense. These rights protected by these laws will be the most difficult to overturn and strip away.
GERDA Demands Non-Binary Recognition
Under the new law, employers, landlords, and state agencies will be prohibited from discriminating against transgender and non-binary individuals. Forms will have to be changed to remove questions about gender altogether or provide a third option for those who identify as non-binary. Employees cannot be demoted, fired, or adversely affected because they do not identify as male or female. Bathrooms and bathroom signage will have to be modified to accommodate transgender and non-binary individuals.
The law will have sweeping effects across the state. It will undoubtedly be contested and litigated in court. Court decisions will help to provide guidance and define the rights of non-binary individuals in the state. This will take time. In the meantime, other states across the country will be watching. New York’s transgender anti-discrimination laws will likely be used as a template for other similar anti-discrimination legislation.