New York Gov. David A. Paterson made a surprise appearance at the New York City LGBT Community Center to sign Executive Order No. 33, which prohibits New York State agencies from "discriminating against any individual on the basis of gender identity and expression." Described as the "broadest inclusion yet of transgender people in state policy" by the New York Times, the order is still limited as it only applies to state agencies and employees.
Though state antidiscrimination law includes gay men and lesbians, it is silent on the issue of transgender people. And while Mr. Paterson’s order will not have the sweep of a statute enacted by the State Legislature because it will apply only to state agencies, gay and transgender rights advocates said it would be a first step toward including gender identity and expression protections in state law. Advocates for transgender people have succeeded in winning broad antidiscrimination protections in a number of cities throughout the state, including New York, Buffalo, Albany and Rochester. But efforts to add similar protections to state law have so far fallen short. The Assembly has passed a transgender antidiscrimination bill, but the Senate has refused to vote on the issue.
The bill in question is known as the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA) and would ban discrimination in housing, employment, and credit for all transgender New Yorkers. The governor says its time for the Senate to pass GENDA: "As much as I am delighted to sign this executive order I am aware that my action is incomplete. I still demand that the New York senate take up a gender equality bill and pass it immediately."
Only two weeks ago, the State Senate defeated a bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to wed in New York. The 38-to-24 vote was a harsh rebuke to gay rights advocates.
Twelve states and the District of Columbia have broad laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender expression and/or identity, according to gay and transgender rights groups. More than 100 cities and counties across the country also provide similar legal protections.