Demonstrators push Nassau to protect transgendered people from discrimination

Protesters gather at the Nassau County executive and Protesters gather at the Nassau County executive and legislative building in Mineola on Sunday, June 22, 2014, to support transgender civil rights and persuade legislators to pass a bill banning gender-based discrimination. Photo Credit: Steven F. Pfost II

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Dozens of demonstrators marched to the Nassau County legislative building Sunday in support of a measure that would ban gender identity-based discrimination in the county.

Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Westbury) said she planned to introduce an amendment to an existing county human-rights law Monday that would more broadly define gender to include people who identify as transgender.

"It's a time of equality. We should recognize and respect differences," Jacobs said Sunday in an interview at the rally, where she also spoke.

Nassau County law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against transgendered people in housing, employment and public accommodation. Suffolk's Human Rights Law bans any gender-based discrimination, with "gender" defined as the "biological and social characteristics of being female or male."

Demonstrators carried signs that protested discrimination in housing and jobs, and chanted as they walked to the front steps of the legislative building.

"Because they're not explicitly part of the bill, transgendered people can be fired from their job, denied service, refused treatment or even face eviction," said Nassau County Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick), who spoke at the rally.

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"One could argue that transgender has always been included [in the law], but if it's unclear, then why not make it explicit?" Denenberg said.

Jacobs said the amendment, which would introduce a more "gender identity"-inclusive definition of gender to the human-rights law, has been submitted four times, but defeated each time. She said she hoped the rally would bring attention to the issue.

Barbara Salva, a member of the Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition, a Vietnam veteran who formerly identified as a man, said she felt vulnerable to discrimination.

"I can get kicked out of my apartment" because of being transgender, "and I have no recourse to sue," Salva said.

The rally also called for the State Senate to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which would outlaw discrimination based on gender identity or expression, and expand the state's hate-crimes law to explicitly include crimes against transgender people.

"By not having anti-discrimination protections, the government is saying it's OK to do this to us -- it's OK to treat us like subhumans," said Andi Dier, a transgender activist for LGBT -- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender -- rights.

Dier, 21, of West Sayville, said she was assaulted by bouncers in a Holbrook bar in March because her driver's license photo no longer matched her appearance.

"If you're against equal and just treatment of trans people, you're against human rights," Dier said. "And that is no side of history anyone wants to be on."

Republican legislators could not be reached for comment Sunday.

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