GENDA: A Quick Update on Transgender Rights Legislation

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As the Empire State Pride Agenda starts to mobilize lobbying efforts in Albany, it has become clear that the group will once again focus on GENDA, the Gender Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

This decision, however, has prompted questions about the general direction of the organization, which is one of the oldest gay rights groups in New York.

But before we get into that, a brief explanation of GENDA is in order.

What the proposed measure would do is protect trans individuals from hiring and workplace bias based upon their gender identity. It's not that different from other anti-discrimination legislations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act or Title VII.

GENDA has died in Albany on several previous occasions.

Repeated legislative failures might have caused rifts both in the Agenda and within the LGBT community. Some, like writer Monica Roberts, voiced frustration that so much focus had been on gay marriage rather than basic rights for transgender individuals.

Others were simply upset with the organization's handling of gay marriage. As the Times Union notes, executive director Ross Levi was fired in March, and

"several people familiar with its lobbying efforts said the Pride Agenda's board was unhappy that the organization was not first among gay rights groups in leading the charge for same-sex marriage, either publicly or privately. There were also questions about what the primary focus would become; either more focus on advancing an LGBT agenda in New York or pushing for some more basic gay rights milestones at the federal level and in other states."

Whatever the non-profit's future direction, what is clear is that the group will push ahead with GENDA in some manner.

And the organization has hired a team of high-profile lobbying and PR team -- including Jennifer Cunningham of SKDKnickerbocker, who ran Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2006 campaign -- to do so.

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.

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