The New York state Assembly has approved the Gender Expression and Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) five times. And four times the bill has died in the state Senate. Will attempt number five be the one?
“I believe the votes are there. The challenge is getting a vote in the Senate. Folks are going to support expanded equal rights if they’re forced to be on the record,” said Sen. Daniel Squadron, a Manhattan Democrat and chief Senate sponsor. “It seems to be a core civil rights issue.” New York was the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage but Squadron said the state is falling behind here, where 16 states, New York City and several upstate cities and three counties have passed versions of GENDA. They include Albany, Rochester, Binghamton, Buffalo and Ithaca, as well as Westchester, Suffolk and Tompkins counties.
Asked about GENDA’s chances, Senate Republican spokesman Mark Hansen said: “Our focus for the remainder of the session is to reduce taxes on businesses and create private sector new jobs.” The Senate’s Republican majority has historically backed bills to assure civil rights, including tougher penalties for those accused of assaulting people because they are gay. With gay and transgender advocates a power politically, Senate passage could also remove an election year issue for Senate Democrats trying to retake the Senate majority. Cuomo has expressed his support.
Hundreds of activists will be swarming Albany today as part of the Empire State Agenda’s annual lobbying day. Let’s hope this final embarrassment to New York gets put behind us.