News (USA)

New York AG Letitia James keeps on standing up for LGBTQ+ people

Letitia James
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D). Photo:

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) took a stand for the rights of transgender people not once, but twice in recent weeks.

Late last month, James joined with 18 other state attorneys general in signing an amicus brief urging the Colorado Supreme Court to uphold a lower court ruling in the latest anti-discrimination case against Masterpiece Cakeshop. In January 2023, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld a district court judge’s ruling that Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law when he refused to make a blue and pink cake for a trans customer after she told him that it would celebrate her gender transition. Phillips, who successfully took a previous anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, appealed, and in October, Colorado’s Supreme Court agreed to hear the latest case.

“Denying service to someone simply because of who they are is illegal discrimination, plain and simple,” James said in a statement. “Allowing this kind of behavior would undermine our nation’s fundamental values of freedom and equality and set a dangerous precedent.”

“I am proud to stand with my fellow attorneys general against this blatant transphobic discrimination,” she added.

James’s office also recently called on Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman to rescind his February 22 executive order banning the Nassau County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Museums from issuing permits to women’s and girls’ sports teams that include transgender athletes. In a March 1 statement, the New York AG’s office said that the executive order discriminates against trans women and girls “in clear violation of New York’s Civil and Human Rights Laws.”

“The law is perfectly clear: you cannot discriminate against a person because of their gender identity or expression. We have no room for hate or bigotry in New York,” James said. “This executive order is transphobic and blatantly illegal. Nassau County must immediately rescind the order, or we will not hesitate to take decisive legal action.”

In a cease-and-desist letter sent to Blakeman on March 1, Civil Rights Bureau Chief Sandra Park noted that the executive order would “impose increased scrutiny of members of teams designated for women or girls and may result in subjecting them to intrusive and inappropriate inquiries or verification requirements that will harm cisgender and transgender women and girls alike.” As the Daily Beast notes, players on men’s and boys’ teams would not be subject to the same scrutiny under the executive order.

James’s office gave Nassau County five business days to rescind the order or face further legal action.

James has consistently proved herself to be a staunch defender of LGBTQ+ rights in recent years. In 2021, she cheered a federal judge’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a photographer seeking a religious exemption to New York’s anti-discrimination law in order to deny services to same-sex couples.

“This court decision is a huge victory in our pursuit to ensure that every New Yorker has equal access and equal protections under the law,” James said in a statement at the time. “My office will always fight to ensure that every New Yorker is treated equally under the law across our entire state.”

After security footage captured a woman setting fire to a Pride flag outside a Manhattan restaurant last February, James tweeted that the city would “not allow blatant acts of hate against our communities.”

In March 2023, amid a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ protests at all-ages Pride events and drag performances, James hosted a Drag Story Hour at Manhattan’s LGBTQ Center. After anti-LGBTQ+ protesters, including members of the Proud Boys, clashed with supporters outside the event, James’s office released a statement saying that part of the point of the Drag Story Hour was to “condemn hate and combat rampant disinformation.”

“The recent rise in anti-LGBTQ+ protests, rhetoric, and policies has left New Yorkers — myself included — devastated and disappointed,” she said. “But I know better than anyone that when the choice is between love and hate, between joy and venom, New Yorkers will always choose love, and New Yorkers will always choose joy.”

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