Kaplan-backed ‘Walking While Trans Ban’ repeal signed by Cuomo

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A bill to repeal New York's "Walking While Trans" ban backed by State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) has been passed. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

A bill to repeal New York’s “Walking While Trans Ban,” co-sponsored by state Sen. Anna M. Kaplan (D-Great Neck), has been signed into law.

The underlying law was originally intended to be used to combat prostitution in New York City, but in recent years had become a tool used to target and harass transgender women of color. The New York State Senate and Assembly passed the legislation to repeal it on Feb. 2, and it was then signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The bill, S.1351, repeals section 240.37 of the penal law, relating to loitering for the purposes of engaging in prostitution, and includes a provision that would seal past convictions for this offense: “Contrary to misinformation that has circulated on the internet, the bill does not legalize prostitution, it doesn’t affect any other prostitution-related offenses, and it leaves law enforcement with the tools they need to combat prostitution and sex trafficking related crimes.”

“COVID exposed low tide in America and the ‘walking while trans’ policy is one example of the ugly undercurrents of injustices that transgender New Yorkers – especially those of color – face simply for walking down the street,” Cuomo said in a statement. “For too long trans people have been unfairly targeted and disproportionately policed for innocent, lawful conduct based solely on their appearance. Repealing the archaic ‘walking while trans’ ban is a critical step toward reforming our policing system and reducing the harassment and criminalization transgender people face simply for being themselves. New York has always led the nation on LGBTQ rights, and we will continue that fight until we achieve true equality for all.”

“When it becomes clear that a section of the law is being abused to unjustly target vulnerable individuals in our community, it falls to lawmakers to correct the problem and prevent further injustice from taking place,” Kaplan said in a statement. “With the repeal of the ‘Walking While Trans Ban,’ we’re removing a broken law that didn’t make anyone safer, and caused transgender New Yorkers undue hardship and suffering for far too long. I congratulate Senator Brad Hoylman for this achievement, I applaud the hard-working activists who fought for this day, and I thank our Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for prioritizing measures that protect justice for New Yorkers.”

The bill passed with the support of the District Attorneys Association of New York, and that of local District Attorney Madeline Singas.

“As we work to promote confidence and trust in law enforcement and our criminal justice system it’s important that we be clearheaded about the laws and policies that protect our communities, and those that can be abused to cause harm,” Singas said. “No one should be profiled for their clothing, gender identity or expression, but data make clear that marginalized individuals—especially trans women of color—have been harassed, exploited, and unjustly charged with ‘loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution,’ and I strongly encourage the State Legislature to repeal this law. Violence and abuse victimizing our trans neighbors occurs at an alarming rate, and we must do more to protect them. The repeal of the ‘walking while trans’ law is an important step and I commend the leaders who have championed this issue so tirelessly.”

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