New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill yesterday (Feb. 2, 2021) repealing the “walking while trans” ban, an antiquated anti-loitering law that had long been used to harass and intimidate transgender people.
Passed into law in 1976, the statute criminalized “loitering for the purpose of prostitution,” a vague definition that allowed police to question and arrest people based on their appearance or dress, even when simply standing and talking to each other. It had often been used to profile transgender people, coming to be known as the “walking while trans” ban.
The discriminatory application of the law had led to thousands of arbitrary and unjustified arrests of LGBTQ New Yorkers, effectively criminalizing their gender identity and serving as a tool of intimidation and persecution.
Trans people of color were disproportionately targeted: according to HRC (Human Rights Campaign), in 2018 there was a 120% increase in arrests under the statute, with 91% being of black and Latin people and 80% identified as women.
Following the repeal, prior arrests made under the statute will be sealed.