(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
While the New York State Senate was approving same-sex marriage, the most recent version of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) was lying fallow. Passed by the Assembly 78-53 for the fourth time (it was originally passed by the Assembly in 2007, then again in 2009, 2010, and this year), and having a reported 32 senators committed to voting for the bill, which would be enough for passage, it was never brought to the floor for debate or a vote. And unlike marriage equality, there was no visible public campaign demanding a vote.
The majority leader, Long Island Republican Dean Skelos, controlled the agenda in the Senate, so GENDA was parked in the Rules Committee, which he controlled, where it sat until time ran out on 2011’s regular session.
Before we blame the Republican leadership, let’s recognize that the Democratic Party controlled the Senate in 2009 and 2010 and there was still no movement on the bill.
In the interests of some background, we note that the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) was passed in 2002 after a two-year effort to include gender identity and expression language came up empty. A transgender inclusive amendment fails 19-41 largely along party lines. SONDA passed 34-26 with 21 Democrats and 13 Republicans voting in favor of the bill.
So, while there is a revolution for gays and lesbians in New York that reverberates across America and around the world, trans people in New York State, outside of New York City, Suffolk County, Ithaca, and few upstate counties can still be fired because of their gender identity or expression, can still be arrested if accused of using an incorrect bathroom or locker room, can be still be thrown out of their homes if a landlord is offended by witnessing a sometimes slow process of gender transition, and can still be forced to be mis-gendered by doctors and hospitals.
For transgender and transsexual people in New York, the expanding freedoms afforded gays and lesbians still feel far away.
A major problem is that since transfolk have protections in The City, legislators in Albany who do not represent the City are not interested in listening to activists from there.
Transpeople are left to wonder what the progressive and queer rights movements will move on to as their next item of focus. What will now become more important than our rights?
We have repeatedly been told to elect more progressive state senators. We did that in 2006 and 2008, and yet we still failed. How many progressive senators are needed to pass trans rights in New York?
Although we are told that next year is “the year”, it is not lost on us that next year is a presidential election year.
And so we plan and meet and ponder and wonder, and look to our friends and colleagues and the new kids. We hope for the best. Soon, we still say, our time will come.