Today, New York Governor David Paterson signed an executive order barring discrimination against state employees on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. Seeing the high numbers of transgender people who report discrimination in the workplace, this is great news for those current and future employees who will be affected.
But it’s also only a first step in the right direction. While New York is now ahead of many states, it’s also really behind many others:
While supporters of transgender legal protections said they were encouraged by Mr. Paterson’s order, they noted that New York was not a pioneer in extending such rights.
“It has been a long road, and I think New York is behind,” said Dru Levasseur, a transgender rights attorney for Lambda Legal. “So this will bring New York up to par with other states that are taking the lead on workplace fairness.”
Twelve states and the District of Columbia have broad laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender expression or identity, according to gay and transgender rights groups. In addition, more than 100 cities and counties across the country provide similar legal protections
Indeed, just within the state, New York City, Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Ithaca, Rochester, Westchester County and Tompkins County already have workplace discrimination laws applying to trans people in place.
Further, the executive order only applies to state employees, because a law is required to extend those same protections to all workers in New York. What is truly needed is the passage of GENDA, an anti-discrimination bill affecting trans New Yorkers that the legislature has allowed to languish for several years — or, as many would argue, a revamped version of GENDA that doesn’t risk causing as many problems as it solves. (Better yet, an inclusive ENDA would extend workplace protections on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation to all employees across the United States.)
In other words, it’s great news that Governor Paterson finally got around to doing this. But he and the rest of New York’s elected officials still have significantly harder work ahead of them.