Legislators voice support for anti-discrimination bills during LGBTQ Week

Legislative Gazette photo by Alexa Appel
Jawanza Williams, organizer at VOCAL-NY, stands with Assemblyman Ortiz to advocate for legislation to help LGBT youth in New York

As a part of LGBT Week, advocates and legislators have assembled in Albany to show support for several bills that would help combat discrimination and lead to more equality.

Legislation has been reintroduced to the Senate after passing the Assembly for a second time. The bill (A.2662/S.277) is sponsored by Assistant Speaker of the Assembly Felix Ortiz, D-Kings, and Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan. The bill would expand the duties of the Office of Children and Family Services concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender runaway and homeless youth. It is currently in the Senate Finance Committee.

Also sponsored by Ortiz is a bill (A.8524/S.7441) that would provide three options for the designation of sex by applicants for driver’s licenses and learner’s permits. The options would be male, female, or non-linear, meaning neither male or female. It is sponsored in the Senate by Jesse Hamilton, D-Brooklyn, and is in the Transportation Committee of both houses.

Ortiz was joined in the Capitol by Liz Power, research chair of the New York Association of School Psychologists, and Samantha Howell, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers’ New York chapter.

Both organizations are supportive of the bills Ortiz sponsored and both noted they have seen the effects of bullying, especially on the LGBTQ community. A series of bills would work to combat bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sponsored by Sen. Todd Kaminsky, D-Long Beach, and Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-Hudson, one bill (S.7678/A.9846) would address cyberbullying in schools. It would establish a task force to explore the effects of cyber-bullying in New York state and potential measures to address such effects. It is currently in the Assembly Governmental Operations and in the Senate Education Committee.

Improving the way LGBT students are treated in schools is a major issue legislators are trying to tackle, as the cyberbullying bill shows. Another bill would reform school gender policies. The bill (S.4843) is a one-house bill sponsored by Hoylman and co-sponsored by Sen. David Carlucci, D-Clarkstown,  and Sen. Jose Peralta, D-Queens. It would require the Board of Education and the trustees or sole trustee of every school district to establish policies and procedures regarding the treatment of transgender or gender non-conforming students. It is currently in the Education Committee.

Hoylman and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, sponsor the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act or GENDA, which passed the Assembly and is currently in the Senate Investigations and Government Operation. The bill would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression and includes offenses regarding gender identity or expression within the list of offenses subject to treatment as hate crimes.

Also sponsored by Hoylman is a bill (S263/A3977) to ban conversion therapy, which is designed to change an individual’s sexual orientation. The practice is already banned in six states and the District of Columbia. The passing of this bill into law would prohibit health professionals from practicing conversion therapy with patients under 18 years of age. It is currently in the Senate Higher Education Committee after passing the Assembly, where it is sponsored by Deborah Glick, D-Greenwich Village.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. Legislative Gazette photo By Alexa Appel

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul spoke at the LGBT Advocacy Day in Albany, praising the efforts of New Yorkers in creating this legislative platform for equality.

Hochul, a former congresswoman from western New York, spoke about how challenging it is sometimes for those in conservative regions to express their identity or sexual orientation.

“There is a difference in how people are treated in our state and that is unfortunate,” said Hochul. “You are the ambassadors to weave through this and help break down the barriers and let every single person know they can be who they want to be because this is the great state of New York.”