Transgender people would be more clearly protected against discrimination while working for the Town of North Hempstead under a bill that would protect individuals on the basis of gender identity.
While Suffolk County has specific language protecting transgender people, Nassau County and its three towns do not explicitly list protections related to gender identity, advocates for transgender rights said. County and Hempstead Town officials have said existing anti-discrimination laws cover transgender people.
Pushes for similar legislation in Nassau and in New York State have failed in recent years.
"A law like this is meant to protect everyone," Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said. "We're merely correcting it so it covers everyone it was intended to."
The law would apply to North Hempstead employees as well as businesses while they are working under contract with the town. The legislation is to be the subject of a public hearing during a town board meeting on Tuesday.
The legislation adds "gender" with multiple definitions to reasons for which "discrimination, harassment or retaliation in the workplace based on actual or perceived differences [is] . . . obnoxious and harmful to its victims, creates an offensive working condition and is a violation of law."
Town code currently mandates that people cannot be discriminated against based on "sex," along with other reasons, such as veteran status, sexual orientation and religion.
The proposed legislation defines gender as including "actual or perceived sex and shall also include a person's gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression, whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the legal sex assigned to that person at birth."
Juli Grey-Owens, executive director of the Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition in Huntington Station, called for a review of North Hempstead's code at a board meeting last month.
"We consider it extremely important for any transgender person to have any kind of protection," Grey-Owens said. Transgender people suffer from discrimination in housing and employment, and from violence, Grey-Owens said.
"It's constantly a problem getting a job; customers might feel uncomfortable," Grey-Owens said. "The reality is, being uncomfortable is not a reason to discriminate against people."
David Kilmnick, chief executive of the LGBT Network in Bay Shore, said North Hempstead's proposed law "is overdue in Nassau County as a whole, and since Nassau County can't get it done, the fact that North Hempstead is doing it and Judi Bosworth is leading the charge for it is great."
Hempstead Town "does not have a similar law on the books," spokesman Mike Deery said. "Our town attorney believes that this type of discrimination would be already covered under New York State law."
Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto said he is "satisfied that the town's nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policy establishes gender identification as a protected class."
Advocates have urged the Nassau County Legislature to redefine the county's Human Rights Law to more broadly define gender. Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) last year said the law should be amended so a definition of gender would include a person's "actual or perceived sex."
Grey-Owens said a rally is planned next month outside the Nassau County Legislature to draw attention to the issue. "We hope that it's a positive step and that it builds into a crescendo," she said.