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New York legislators recently debated a bill that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. The NY transgender bill would amend all of the state's anti-discrimination laws, including those that cover employment and housing.
The State Assembly passed the legislation with overwhelming support, but it is currently sitting in the Senate Rules Committee. Supporters are trying to mobilize a floor vote before the end of the current legislative session.
For those who think the NY transgender bill is ahead of the curve -- think again. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia already prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression. Another 143 cities and counties -- in all parts of the country -- also do the same.
Some of these laws are quite extensive, covering employment, housing, education and public accommodations. Others are limited, like Hawaii's, which only prohibits housing discrimination. And then there are a few that only apply to state employees.
A number of federal courts have also interpreted sex discrimination laws to apply to transgender individuals in the areas of housing and employment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has even affirmatively state that federal employment laws prohibit such discrimination.
Nonetheless, laws like the NY transgender bill remain an important part of gaining equal rights for transgender persons. Federal and state laws continue remain open to interpretation. Laws like these are the only definitive way to remove this uncertainty and offer full protection.