New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday signed into law the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and the state’s ban on conversion therapy practiced on minors.
Cuomo signed the bills at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan 10 days after they were swiftly approved by the State Legislature.
The two measures sailed through the Assembly and State Senate in the beginning of the legislative session after years of stalled action while the Republicans controlled the upper house.
GENDA, which adds gender identity and expression as a protected class in the state’s human rights and hate crimes laws, was long stalled, winning only Assembly passage, after advocates called on the state to take further action in light of the limited scope of the 2002 Sexual Orientation Nondiscrimination Act, which only protected people on the basis of sexual orientation.
The other law signed on Friday outlaws the practice of so-called conversion therapy practiced on minors by health professionals. The New York City Council passed a similar measure in 2017, but that law only banned people from charging for services intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or the gender with which they identify.
Friday’s bills and other progressive measures, including a state version of the DREAM Act, were rapidly approved by lawmakers after voters in the state flocked to the polls in November and voted out a number of conservative Republican State Senate incumbents. In the September Democratic primary, six of the eight members of the the Independent Democratic Conference, who had been elected as Democrats but caucused with Republicans, were also defeated.
Out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan, who spearheaded the campaign to pass the LGBTQ rights laws, noted during Friday’s press conference at the Center that the bills’ enactment coincides with the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.
“2019 will go down in history in that regard, but also because of the bills we are signing today,” Hoylman said. “It’s also more appropriate because it was transgender and gender nonconforming people who lit the spark, who began the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement. We stand on their shoulders today.”
Before signing the bills into law, the governor called Friday an “emotional” day and pointed to the progress the state has made on LGBTQ rights.
“We are once again sending a clear and proud message that there is no place for hate in our state, and anyone who engages in bigotry and discrimination will be held accountable,” Cuomo said.
LGBTQ groups celebrated the news after the governor signed the bills into law.
Gabriel Blau, one of the founders of Equality New York, a group that since 2016 has worked to forge a united voice for LGBTQ New Yorkers, said, “With today’s historic signing of GENDA and the ban on conversion therapy, New York has once again shown its residents, and the country, where its values stand. From Sylvia Rivera and all who fought at Stonewall 50 years ago to today has been a long journey. It is not over, but we have certainly reached a long-awaited milestone. Equality New York is grateful to the governor, his staff, the legislators in Albany, and our colleagues in the LGBTQI Advocacy Coalition.”
Noah Lewis, who chairs the New York City Bar Association’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Rights Committee, underscored the importance of legislative action geared toward state and local protections for transgender New Yorkers.
“While courts have long found transgender people to be protected under the New York State Human Rights Law, legislative recognition of transgender equality sends a powerful message of respect at a time when it is urgently needed,” he said.
Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, the leading Washington-based LGBTQ lobbying group, said, “These laws will literally save lives, and their passage would not have been possible without the tireless work of advocates and allies across New York over the last decade.”