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New York state legislature to consider transgender rights bill

Saturday, February 23, 2013
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ALBANY, N.Y. — A bill making its way in the New York state legislature would protect gender identity or expression from discrimination and subject violators to a potential hate crime prosecution.

Under the measure, gender identity would be added to New York state law that already prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, age, sexual orientation and more in issues of housing, credit, employment and others.

The measure has the critical support of the Independent Democratic Conference, five breakaway members who share majority control of the Senate with Republicans.

Republicans haven’t yet discussed the measure, but aren’t dismissing it in this new era in which more Democratic-leaning bills get to the Senate floor even with GOP opposition.

“New Yorkers overwhelmingly support this bill,” said Vincent Paolo Villano of the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington. Passage “could be another example of how the state is leading the country in achieving full LGBT equality.”

“If we get a vote, the chances are very good,” said Sen. Daniel Squadron, a Democrat representing parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan who is sponsoring the Senate bill.

“People are shocked you can lose your job, or your home or be denied a place in a restaurant because of sexual identity. No one thinks that’s what New York should look like,” said Squadron

Some law enforcement officers testified at recent hearings that the law would help them act more quickly on threats to head off violence.

“Transgender individuals across the state face life-threatening discrimination every day,” said Nathan Shaefer, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda. “It’s too soon for us to reliably predict how everyone will vote. But we’ve already started working with the state Senate and we have a long track record of working across the aisle.”

The District of Columbia, 16 states and several cities already have laws protecting gender identity and expression.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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