March 22, 2017

Assembly Passes Legislation to Expand Civil Rights Protections Measures Include GENDA and Protections for Religious Attire

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie today announced the passage of legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression, expand civil rights protections in schools and prohibit employment discrimination against any attire, clothing or facial hair worn in accordance with religious beliefs.

"It is an injustice that with so much diversity in our state, individuals are still being discriminated against for no cause other than being who they are and living their lives in accordance with their constitutionally protected beliefs," said Heastie. "The measures passed today represent the Assembly Majority's commitment to rejecting discrimination and intolerance wherever they occur and empowering New Yorkers to live their lives free of fear or prejudice."

The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) would expand protections under the Human Rights Law by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression in considerations of employment, education and in consumer credit and housing. In addition, this legislation would add offenses motivated by a person's gender identity or expression to the hate crimes statute (A.3358, Gottfried).

"Transgender rights are human rights," said Assemblymember Gottfried. "With an administration of bullies in Washington, now is the time for New York to stand up for common sense, fairness, and justice. It is long overdue for a vote in the State Senate, so that New York can join the 18 states and the District of Columbia that have enacted laws barring discrimination on the basis of gender identity."

"The Assembly Majority has always been an outspoken defender of civil rights," said Assemblymember Glick. "The reality is there are New Yorkers who continue to face discrimination because of their gender identity or expression and this is unacceptable. Every individual has a right to pursue a safe and fulfilling life without fear or threat of shame for being who they are."

"These are troubling times for all individuals, regardless of race, sexual orientation, faith, gender, or gender identity," said Assemblymember Matthew Titone. "The recent rise in hate crimes around the world continues even though history has repeatedly shown us the devastating consequences of discrimination and intolerance toward others. As New Yorkers, we have an obligation to denounce these morally corrupt sentiments and behaviors wherever they occur so that hatred and intolerance will never become the norm. These bills represent our commitment to defending our children, our communities and the life and liberty of all people."

"This is the tenth year in a row the Assembly Majority has fought to update New York's laws to protect transgender individuals from discrimination," said Assemblymember O'Donnell. "Everyone deserves to experience the highest quality of life possible and this legislation would send a clear message that New York will not tolerate those who attempt to diminish it."

"Transgender-inclusive civil rights legislation is long overdue in New York State," said Assemblymember Bronson. "Our laws must reinforce our values of equality and ensure that every New Yorker is able to thrive. Leaving these individuals vulnerable to discrimination is a gross injustice to everyone."

Currently, the New York State Human Rights Law affirms that an individual has the right to obtain an education without prejudice and prohibits harassment, bullying or other discrimination. Since, due to a New York State Court of Appeals decision, this protection is only applicable to private institutions, it excludes thousands of New Yorkers who attend public schools. Under a proposal approved today, the protections against discrimination would be expanded to cover public schools as well (A.6659, Dilan).

"At a time when so many New Yorkers are fearful of the hostilities and incidences of discrimination that have been on the rise, we have a responsibility to protect our citizens," said Assemblymember Dilan. "This bill would make a sensible and much-needed change in the law to ensure that public schools are the safe spaces they were always intended to be."

"As home to some of the most diverse schools in the nation, it is important for New York's families to know that their students are protected regardless of where they attend school," said Assemblymember Peoples-Stokes. "Bullying and other acts of discrimination weaken our students' morale and compromises their ability to feel safe and focus on their education. These behaviors have no place in our classrooms."

Another measure passed today would prohibit employers from requiring an employee to forgo the wearing of attire, clothing or facial hair worn in accordance with their religion, as a condition of employment or promotion (A.4977, Weprin).

"With hate crimes rising in 2017, it is more important than ever that we stand together with our fellow Americans of faith," said Assemblymember David Weprin. "I feel that those who choose to wear an article of faith should never be discriminated against and should never have to choose between their profession and their religious beliefs. As such, I am proud to stand with all Americans of faith, regardless of their choice to wear a hijab, kippah, turban or cross."

"All New Yorkers deserve equality and the protections that New York's State's anti-discrimination laws offer," said Assemblymember Lentol. "In 2017, no one should have to worry about losing their job or housing because of their religion, gender identity or expression."