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New York Gov. Cuomo Bans Transgender Discrimination
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 28: New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo takes part in the 2015 New York City Pride march on June 28, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 28: New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo takes part in the 2015 New York City Pride march on June 28, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

For the third time this year, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has used his executive power to bypass the state legislature to advance a progressive cause. The governor announced at the Empire State Pride Agenda dinner last week that his office would now interpret a state law protecting people from the denial of private sector services on the basis of their sex as applying to transgender persons.

The 2002 Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) deliberately excluded transgender persons from its protections for fear it would poison the bill’s chances of passage. “SONDA was flawed,” Mr. Cuomo said. “The law protected lesbians, gays and bisexuals, but it left out the ‘T,’ so to speak. It left behind the transgendered.”

“That was not right, it was not fair and it was not legal,” Mr. Cuomo continued. State Senate leadership has prevented a bill that would have extended those legal shields to transgender persons, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, the past eight times it has been confronted with the issue.

“As governor of New York, it is my opinion that in 2015, it is clear that the fair, legal interpretation and definition of a person’s sex includes gender identity and gender expression,” Cuomo said. “Therefore, I am directing the State Division of Human Rights to immediately issue regulations defining New York State’s discrimination law to prohibit discrimination against trans individuals.”

In June, Mr. Cuomo signed an executive order granting Attorney General Eric Schneiderman jurisdiction over cases where a police officer kills a civilian who may have been unarmed, after the State Senate failed to support his proposals for an independent monitor to investigate such situations. And in July, he impaneled a wage board which instated a new pay floor for the fast food industry, ahead of his declared push in the legislature for a $15 minimum wage for all sectors in the state.

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