In a press release issued yesterday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the New York State Division of Human Rights has adopted new regulations that ban discrimination and harassment against transgender people. The regulations are effective immediately, and affirm that transgender individuals are protected under the state's Human Rights Law. According to the press release, "All public and private employers, housing providers, businesses, creditors and others should know that discrimination against transgender persons is unlawful and will not be tolerated anywhere in the state of New York."
New York State's Human Rights Law, enacted in 1945, prohibits discriminatory practices on grounds such as "sexual orientation" and "sex" among others, including "disability." Anyone recognized under these terms cannot legally be subject to discrimination in opportunities for employment, education, public accommodation" or with reference to "the ownership, use and occupancy of housing accommodations and commercial space." Specifically, the law acknowledges "unwelcome sexual advances" and sexual harassment toward domestic workers as unlawful.
According to The Empire State Pride Agenda, these very areas continue to be a stumbling block for transgender people. For instance, even with some local protections in place 75% of transgender people have suffered workplace harassment in New York. With respect to spaces of public accommodations and services, 53% of transgender New Yorkers have been either harassed or discriminated against. Additionally, since the majority of counties in New York do not have protections in place, transgender people could be legally discriminated against in most of the state. Governor Cuomo's initiative has recognized the demand for legal action on these fronts and broadens the specific scope of protections granted by the law so that it may include transgender New Yorkers.
Drawing on the GENDA bill, which has been stalled in the state senate, Cuomo's rules establish "gender identity" and "the status of being transgender" as unlawful grounds for discrimination. The regulations incorporate "gender identity" and "the status of being transgender" into the term "sex", wherever it appears in the Human Rights Law. This particularly includes any section within the text which addresses harassment or discrimination by virtue of "sex", or "sex" as a "protected category." Similarly, gender dysphoria, as a known medical condition will now qualify wherever the term "disability" functions in the text. Discrimination or harassment pertaining to such a condition will now be considered a violation of disability restrictions.
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