New York Senate Drops the Ball on Gender Identity Discrimination Bill

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Amy Ning
How many times can New York state lawmakers kick the can down the road on important housing and employment discrimination laws before they get legislator's toe? Probably many, is a fair guess. And they had at least one big punt left in them this past weekend.

Just before the Senate adjourned until 2014, Democratic leadership failed to bring GENDA, a sweeping law designed to protect transgender people from employment and housing discrimination, to an up-or-down vote. The Assembly has passed it six years running, so maybe senators got do-the-right-thing fatigue?

Though New York City is among the seven cities and three counties in the state that already have these forms of protection, the shields in place are usually vague or incomplete. One example is that New York City local ordinances protect full-time employees, but they don't guard against discrimination against trans contractors. The city statutes are also silent on protected access to public education.

The right's bogus gay panic has bled into the discussion of trans rights, and it's deflating those on the left who have had several opportunities to usher the bill to passage. So what would it take to get the Democrats in the Senate to pull their heads out of that hole in the sand? Staking the argument as a matter of civil rights, or even one of popular will, clearly isn't cutting it.

Turns out there is a very strong economic argument to be made for ending housing and employment discrimination against transpeople in New York (to which we might say, duh).

In an April policy memo prepared by Dr. Jody Herman at the Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law, more robust (read: existent) statewide sanctions against trans discrimination could save the state up to $7 million in the yearly state budget.

There are massive economic consequences to transpeople living under the pall of hiring and housing bias, because unemployment and homelessness produce an economic cascade effect of lost revenues, housing assistance expenditures, and increased burdens on health insurance subsidies.

Not to mention the cost to the human dignity of nearly 60,000 New Yorkers. It's injustice all the way down on this one, folks. Here are some numbers from a recent survey of trans New Yorkers, to make the bleakness of the situation a little more concrete:

  • 23,000 trans New Yorkers live in parts of the state without any protections at all.
  • 20 percent of transgender people in New York report losing a job based on bias.
  • 37 percent report not being hired because of it.
  • 19 percent of Transgender people in New York make less than $10,000 a year.
  • The state could be losing as much as $2.5 million a year in tax revenue from trans unemployment and underemployment.
  • Anywhere from $475,000 to $5.9 million gets spent in housing assistance for trans people who were either evicted due to bias or can't afford housing due to employment discrimination
  • New York Medicaid spends an extra $1 million a year because of unemployment and underemployment among transpeople.

It'll be a full seven months before the Senate reconvenes, and if the bill is reintroduced--no guarantees--there's still one question left to ask: What are they afraid of?


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