When you want to get a job done right, sometimes you have to do it yourself.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced regulations last week providing the strongest statewide protections to date for transgender rights.
By explicitly adding transgender individuals to those already protected by existing state nondiscrimination law, this executive action provides comprehensive protection, as opposed to the patchwork protection that now exists, in the areas of disabilities, employment, education, housing and credit.
Transgender people are protected in some or all of these areas by local laws and administrative actions in large portions of the state, but you don't have to move far for that to change. From New York City and Suffolk County, for example, it only takes a short drive to Nassau County to lose that protection. And in total, nearly 40% of New Yorkers live in districts that lack protection for transgender rights. Cuomo's action, which will take effect after a 45-day comment period, will apply statewide.
This protection is necessary. Too often, transgender people experience harassment on the job and discrimination when trying to find a home or get through school. As transgender activists and celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner shed more light on their experiences with prejudice, sweeping protections are not just correct but overdue.
Cuomo's announcement follows the State Legislature's continued failure to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). The number of times the bill has passed the Assembly but died in the Senate is approaching double digits. Legislative inaction, exasperated executive action. Sound familiar?
As in national politics, executive actions can only do so much. They can be rolled back by new administrations or challenged in court. Passing GENDA would put a commonsense law on the books. This executive action also does not directly address the expansion of hate crime law included in GENDA.
We applaud the governor's action on this issue. Hopefully, it will spur the State Senate to get with the program.