Statement Regarding Rochester's Legislation that Explicitly Protects Transgender Residents(Rochester, NY)
“We commend Rochester for leading the way yet again on transgender equal rights by further defining the City Code to explicitly include protections on the basis of ‘gender identity and expression.’ While Rochester was the first city in New York State to extend non-discrimination protections to transgender individuals, last night’s actions by the City Council further strengthened and clarified the effects of the city’s human rights law by expressly identifying gender expression and identity as protected from discrimination. It also brings the language of the law into alignment with laws recently passed in states like Maryland and President Obama’s Executive Order protecting LGBT federal contractors.
Transgender visibility and understanding is increasing at an ever more rapid pace across the state and the nation, but transgender New Yorkers still face disproportionate disadvantages when it comes to accessing basic needs and services - 74% have been harassed or mistreated on the job, 19% denied a home or apartment, and 53% harassed in public accommodations, such as a restaurant, library, store, or public transportation. Laws like the one Rochester passed in 2001 and the one that just passed last night explicitly give transgender people the same legal rights to live their lives with protections against discrimination that everyone else enjoys. Laws like this one help to make such localities safer, more welcoming places for everyone, regardless of their gender identity or expression.
Special congratulations are due to Councilmember-at-Large Matt Haag and Councilmember Carolee A. Conklin for introducing this legislation and ushering it through to passage. We’re especially proud that the voiced need for these more clearly defined protections were first made visible at the Pride Agenda’s legislative forum in Rochester earlier this spring.
Though Rochester was the first locality in New York State to prohibit discrimination against transgender people, it was not the last – ten others across the state have followed Rochester’s lead. We sincerely hope this public support for the safety and equal treatment of transgender residents shines a light from Rochester to Albany to the halls of the New York State Legislature and the desk of Governor Cuomo to inspire the long overdue passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which would extend statewide protections on the basis of gender identity and expression.”
The news comes on the heels of President Obama’s landmark executive order on Monday that explicitly protects transgender federal civil service employees and one that protects all federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Earlier this year, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced at the Pride Agenda’s Spring Dinner that the city would extend transition-related medical care to city employees and eligible family members.