Last night, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his intention to pass a bill protecting transgender people from discrimination in New York State.
Presently, NY State law covers discrimination due to gender and sexual orientation, but there is no current protection for transgender individuals. Over the past few months, transgender equality has become a major issue in Albany, but all efforts to pass legislation have consistently been halted by the Republican controlled senate.
Last night, at the Empire State Pride Agenda dinner, Governor Cuomo announced his plan to pass a transgender equality bill through an executive action as a way of avoiding the typical legislative process. There has been some backlash from those who claim that this method is an abuse of power. The Daily News reports that Conservative Chairman, and long-time gay marriage opponent, Michael Long stated,
I think he’s starting to consider himself not the governor, he’s considering himself the czar of New York, which he is not.
The use of an executive action is a way of subverting the general process of passing a bill, it’s hard to argue against that fact. But in this particular case, when the senate continually refuses to recognize the clear oversight of the previous bill, the order seems justified. It’s tough to really blame Cuomo for utilizing any method at his disposal to pass legislation he believes in. Although, in the same regard, one can see why this method would incense senate members, as it essentially renders their votes useless. As is typical with executive orders, if you agree with the content therein, you accept the method, if you don’t agree with the content, the whole thing suddenly seems unconstitutional.
Regardless of how the bill will be passed, the legislation is a victory for transgender rights, as it will cover housing and employment as well as public accommodations. The public accommodations aspect makes the bill far more impactful, as it extends to all service and retail establishments as well as recreational areas and schools. The one drawback to the legislation, is that an executive action is not subject to the same distinctions as bills passed through the senate, and thus, the next governor will have the power to overturn it if he/she desires to do so. So it is a large and noteworthy step, but it is not a sign of overwhelming governmental support for the transgender community.
While gay rights has made enormous strides in the last few years, the transgender community remains a highly discriminated group. The general, national awareness of the trans community is at an all-time high, and it seems that this newfound recognition has begun to clear a path towards acceptance and equality—but there’s still a long way to go. With the passing of this legislation, NY will become the 20th state to enact a bill protecting the rights of transgender individuals, and with the public, trans profile on the rise, hopefully it is just the beginning.
by Jesse Mechanic