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ADVOCACY FOR EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY:
MARRIAGE EQUALITY AND GENDA

MARRIAGE EQUALITY AND GENDA


MARRIAGE EQUALITY AND GENDA: Current Action
 

When in 2011 Governor Cuomo came out in favor of legislation granting individuals of the same sex the ability to enter into civil marriages in New York State, the League actively worked to help pass the Marriage Equality Act. Individual members of the legislature were identified as important to the passage of the legislation, and members of the League, equipped with talking points provided by state, lobbied those legislators in an effort to win their support. The New York legislation passed in 2011.

LWVNYS continues to work for passage of the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act (GENDA). This act would prohibit discrimination in housing, education, and public accommodation based on gender expression or identification and add crimes against transgender individuals to a list of hate crimes. Although the positions of both the state and national Leagues interpret gender equality to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression, SONDA, the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act for which the League successfully advocated in 2002, did not so define gender. Consequently, discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation (like restaurants and movies) based on gender identity or expression is still legal in New York State, except where prohibited under local law, as is the case in many jurisdictions.

These terms can be confusing: what do the classifications mean and how are they different? Sexual orientation refers to one’s romantic and sexual attraction. Gender identity and expression refers to the way people self-identify, their personal sense of being a man or a woman, and how they present their masculinity and/or femininity to the world, through clothing, mannerisms, voice, etc. Often, but not always, this corresponds to the person’s sex as assigned at birth, so that a person born biologically male or female often dresses, adopts a hair style, and uses a name and pronoun in ways that reflect the culturally accepted roles associated with their birth sex.  Transgender is an umbrella term used to designate a community of people who regularly present in a gender different from the sex assigned to them at birth and who live a significant part of their lives in that gender. This includes people who have undergone medical procedures to change their sex and those who have not.  Gender variance is not in itself any indicator of sexual orientation. Just like everyone else, gender variant and transgender people may be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or asexual.

Although the transgender community is small, it faces staggering societal discrimination. Addressing this, the Assembly has twice passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) GENDA would add gender identity and expression to other protected categories, such as race, religion, and sexual orientation, in New York’s human rights laws. GENDA would make it illegal across the state to fire someone from a job, evict them from an apartment, deny them a loan or refuse them service in a restaurant simply because they are transgender. It would also add gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crime laws to help protect transgender people from violence.  Its protections also cover persons who don’t fit a stereotypical male or female norm, like a masculine woman or a feminine man. 

MARRIAGE EQUALITY AND GENDA: League Positions

The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that the federal government shares with other levels of government the responsibility to provide equality of opportunity for education, employment and housing for all persons in the United States regardless of their race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation or disability. 

This position is interpreted by the LWVUS to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression.  At the LWVUS Convention in June, 2010, this position was amended to include marriage equality, the ability of two people of the same sex to marry. 

Click here to see a history of our action under the Equality of Opportunity position.

MARRIAGE EQUALITY AND GENDA: How to Get Involved

If this issue is important to you, your help is needed!  You could:

  • Lobby your Elected Officials, either in Albany or in your home district.  Our lobbying efforts will focus on Assembly members and Senators who have no stated position or who are opposed to GENDA.  We are looking for League members who are willing to call, write, or visit one or both of their own elected officials.
  • Send your Story to the Story Bank. We story bank about ways in which the failure to prohibit transgender discrimination has hurt you or those you love. If you have a story you are willing to share, please send it to us.
  • Please contact Suzanne Perry, Loudonville, to volunteer or for more information about these efforts.