HISTORIC: NY Legislature Passes Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act & Ban on Conversion Therapy

HRC celebrated the historic passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) in New York as well as legislation protecting LGBTQ youth in the state from the dangerous and debunked practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” GENDA would solidify existing law by explicitly adding gender identity and expression to the New York Human Rights Law. The bill has passed the New York Assembly 11 times, and today marks the first time it has passed both chambers. Both bills will now head to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk to be signed.

Today’s passage of GENDA is the culmination of efforts that reach back for over a decade. In 2016, Governor Cuomo directed the New York State Division of Human Rights to adopt regulations, consistent with state case law interpreting the meaning of ‘sex,’ to make it clear that transgender people are protected from discrimination and harassment under the state’s Human Rights Law. Additionally, the bill adds protections on the basis of gender identity to the state’s hate crimes law. The passage and signing of GENDA will explicitly codify these protections into law once and for all. With the passage of legislation banning conversion therapy, New York joins 14 states and the District of Columbia in protecting LGBTQ youth from this dangerous practice.

For several election cycles,  HRC has worked on the ground in New York to elect pro-equality legislators up and down the ballot, all across the state, leading to a pro-equality majority in both houses of the legislature and today’s historic action in Albany.

“Today’s historic action in New York is the result of years of hard work and it is a vivid illustration of the importance of electing pro-equality lawmakers,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Due to the efforts of countless advocates and leaders, transgender New Yorkers will now be explicitly protected from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and LGBTQ youth will be protected from the dangerous, debunked practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy.’ This is a monumental day for fairness and equality across the Empire State.”

“With today’s vote, it is now clear that the Empire State will soon take its rightful place among the growing number of states that explicitly protect transgender residents and visitors from discrimination,” said HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride. “No person should face discrimination because of their gender identity and no young person should be subjected to the abusive practice known as ‘conversion therapy.’ The advancement of both GENDA and protections for LGBTQ youth against ‘conversion therapy’ on the same day sends a powerful message to LGBTQ young people across New York that they are seen, loved and will soon be protected — we thank transgender advocates from across the state for their years of work, Senator Hoylman and Assemblymembers Gottfried and Glick for their ongoing leadership on these critical issues, and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, a longtime and strong supporter of equality.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo prohibited so-called “conversion therapy” in New York by executive order in 2016, and the legislation passed today will permanently protect youth from the practice under state law. There is no credible evidence that conversion therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. To the contrary, research has clearly shown that these practices pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people such as depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior. The harmful practice is condemned by every major medical and mental health organization, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association and American Medical Association.

14 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws protecting youth from this abusive practice: Connecticut, California, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland, Hawaii and New Hampshire.

HRC has partnered with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and state equality groups across the nation to pass state legislation ending conversion therapy. More information on the lies and dangers of efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity can be found here.

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Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Rescinds Sexual Assault Protections

Today, HRC responded to Trump-Pence administration’s announcement that they will be rescinding Title IX guidance related to schools’ obligations to address sexual harassment, including sexual violence.

“With today’s announcement, Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration have clearly drawn a line in the sand, stating that they prefer it be more difficult for survivors of sexual assault to receive justice,” said David Stacy, director of government affairs at the Human Rights Campaign. “LGBTQ Americans face disproportionate levels of sexual assault and violence. This unconscionable decision — coupled with the decision to rescind guidance aimed at protecting transgender students — sadly indicates that the Department of Education is no longer in the business of protecting students from harm.”

Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding. While historically known for its impact on women’s athletics admissions, Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination, as a matter of law, also requires schools to address sexual harassment, including sexual violence, as forms of sex discrimination. In addition, Title IX protects students from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, as evidenced by continuing case law, guidance previously issued by the Department of Education, and school district settlements to this effect.

LGBTQ people are disproportionately affected by sexual assault and harassment, and the stigma that many LGBTQ people face can make it more difficult for survivors to report. Studies suggest that nearly half of bisexual women have been raped and half of transgender people will experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a national survey of high school students, lesbian and bisexual women and gay and bisexual men experienced higher rates of sexual assault than their straight counterparts. In addition, a 2015 study by the Association of American Universities found that 60 percent of gay and lesbian students and nearly 70 percent of bisexual students report being sexually harassed on campus.

In February, DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions also withdrew important guidance that clarified schools’ obligations to protect transgender students from discrimination under Title IX.

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Ruling Affirms Civil Rights Laws Protect Employees from Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation

Today, HRC hailed a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit finding that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act includes protections based on sexual orientation. This decision marks the first time a federal appellate court has ruled this way and reverses a previous decision made in July.

“This critically important Circuit Court decision has adopted a well-grounded legal analysis concluding that our nation’s civil rights laws include sexual orientation,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Today’s ruling is a monumental victory for fairness in the workplace, and for the dignity of lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans who may live in fear of losing their job based on whom they love. This court joins five others that have ruled these laws also prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. We congratulate plaintiff Kimberly Hively, Lambda Legal and all the attorneys who helped achieve this victory.”

The Hively case stems from a lawsuit brought by Indiana teacher Kimberly Hively, who alleged  that Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend did not offer her a full-time position because she is a lesbian. She was represented in the case by Gregory Nevins of Lambda Legal.

HRC holds the view that Title VII protects LGBTQ employees. Three successful legal efforts — all led by Lambda Legal — in federal courts in Seattle, Chicago, and Washington D.C., were cited by the EEOC in Baldwin v. Foxx in 2015. In that decision, the EEOC concluded that sexual orientation “inherently” involves sex-based considerations, and so sexual orientation discrimination claims are “necessarily” claims under Title VII.

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