Nassau County’s human rights law currently protects people with 15 defined statuses.
Gender identity is not one of them, Juli Grey-Owens, director of the Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition, said in an interview.
Nassau County Legislator Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) announced at a Sunday rally hosted by the coalition that he has re-filed legislation to amend the law to do so.
“The transgender community is totally excluded from this coverage and experiencing tremendous amounts of discrimination in housing, employment, recreationally, socially … we need to be further inclusive in this statute,” Drucker said in an interview.
If the legislation passes, it “certainly would inform the public that it is not OK to discriminate against us,” Grey-Owens said.
The coalition held its fifth transgender rights rally and march in Mineola on Sunday.
Nassau County Legislature minority members including Drucker, Joshua Lafazan (D-Syosset) and Debra Mulé (D-Freeport) joined advocates at the rally, which attracted more than 100 participants this year, Grey-Owens said.
The coalition is advocating for laws on the state and county level to protect transgender and gender nonconforming people.
Expanding the county human rights law is an effort that Drucker’s predecessor, the late Legislator Judy Jacobs, undertook.
She was blocked by the GOP, which never even let the bill go to committee, Drucker said.
Drucker’s bill, which is co-sponsored by members of the minority caucus, would add definitions of “gender,” “gender identity” and “transgender” to the existing human rights law.
“The Republicans have said we don’t need it,” Grey-Owens said.
Drucker called those opposed to expanding the county’s human rights law “narrow-minded” and “out of touch with our society of 2018.”
Drucker added that there shouldn’t even be a perception that the transgender community is not protected.
“There’s no such thing as redundancy when it comes to legislation, and making sure you protect anyone,” Drucker said. “It leaves no ambiguity.”
Efforts to reach Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) were unavailing.
In addition to expanding the county human rights law, the advocates are pushing to get the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, GENDA, passed in New York state.
When the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, SONDA, was put together in 2003 it did not include language protecting the transgender community.
When advocates asked to have language in the bill protecting the transgender community they were told “no,” because it might prevent the bill from passing, Grey-Owens said.
“They [said] they would work to get language that would protect us at a later date,” Grey-Owens said. “Kind of like, ‘Oh well, we’ll get back to you next year.'”
GENDA has passed the Assembly for 11 straight years, but has never made it to the Senate floor for a vote, Grey-Owens said.
Drucker said he also supports passing GENDA.
“Any opportunity we can as legislators to improve our laws, to make it the law of the land so every single person, no matter who they are, who they love, how they identity, what their political feelings are, religious feelings – any person in this country, in this state, in this county should feel the exact same rights and protection as everyone else,” Drucker said.
Grey-Owens said the advocates who march each year are not only trying to amend laws, but also inform the public.
It helps bring awareness to an issue that many Long Island residents are not informed about, Grey-Owens said.
It also puts a human face on the cause.
“We’re family members, neighbors, co-workers – we’re just regular people and we exist,” Grey-Owens said. “We’re not like the Loch Ness monster; we’re actually here.”