State law protecting transgendered pushed

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A transgender person in Suffolk County or New York City is legally protected from discrimination, but if that person goes to Nassau, the provisions that prohibit treating people differently because of their gender identity don't apply.

Advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender New Yorkers are focusing on that discrepancy and launching a campaign for a state law.

Shielding transgender people from discrimination "is a basic civil rights issue" that is already law in several localities, 16 states and Washington, D.C., said Nathan Schaefer, director of the New York City-based Empire State Pride Agenda, which advocates on LGBT issues.

An April report by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimates 58,000 transgender people live in New York and concluded many could face employment and housing discrimination because of the patchwork of local laws.

"People face legal discrimination every day, based basically on who they are," Schaefer said.

The campaign supports a legislative proposal known as GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. It prohibits discrimination "based on gender identity or expression" and allows for treating related offenses as hate crimes.

The bill by state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn) and Assemb. Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) passed the Democratic-controlled Assembly six times, including last week, but hasn't been voted on in the Republican-led Senate. "It's simply unacceptable that New Yorkers can lose their job or be evicted from their home because of their gender identity or expression," Squadron said in a statement.

The Conservative Party continues to oppose the bill, saying existing law already requires treating all people equally.

"We don't need to create new categories of individuals that need to be protected," party chairman Michael Long said.

Assemb. Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck), who has supported the bill, said a clearer message against bias is needed to "make sure that no one ever feels that they can be discriminated against."

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