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Governor introduces regulations to protect transgender New Yorkers

November 13th, 2015  |  Deborah Hammonds

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is being lauded for introducing regulations through the state’s Human Rights Law that unequivocally ban harassment and discrimination against transgender people. The regulations affirm that all transgender individuals are protected under the New York State Human Rights Law, and all public and private employers, housing providers, businesses, creditors and others should know that discrimination against transgender persons is unlawful and will not be tolerated anywhere in the state.

Governor Cuomo announced the regulations during a speech at the Empire State Pride Agenda’s fall dinner, where he was also honored with the group’s Silver Torch award. This is the first time any governor has issued statewide regulations to prohibit harassment and discrimination on the basis of gender identity, transgender status or gender dysphoria.

The regulations represent the first state regulatory action in the nation to affirm that harassment and other forms of discrimination, by both public and private entities, on the basis of a person’s gender identity, transgender status, or gender dysphoria is considered unlawful discrimination. Under state law, the New York State Division of Human Rights has the statutory authority to promulgate regs interpreting the Human Rights Law. Further, while discrimination against transgender people has been specifically forbidden in New York by Executive Order since 2009, in practice that order only protects state workers.

Additionally, New York currently has limited pockets of legal protection for transgender people because of municipal ordinances or laws that also ban harassment or discrimination, to varying degrees. However, many municipalities do not guarantee these protections, and there is no statewide ban on discrimination or harassment for individuals not employed by the state. The Governor’s latest action will ensure that all transgender individuals do not lose their rights simply by traveling from one county or city to another.

The new regulations, introduced on October 22, are subject to a 45-day notice and comment period before full implementation.