The LGBTQ community is celebrating a new state law that went in to effect this week. GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, adds protections for gender identity and expressions. They are now a protected class in New York State’s human rights and hate crime laws.
Pride Center of Western New York Executive Chair Patricia Jones said this is huge win for an already marginalized community that struggles to be accepted and understood.
"Why should my rights be any less than anyone else's? and this is all that we've been asking for," Jones said. "And now he have it. It took a while, but now we have it and hopefully going forward, it will be a much easier time for many of us working in our community”
Jones said the law will bring protections in workplace, home and health care environments that were previously denied.
The act took more than 16 years to become law. Originally, there was transgender inclusion wording in the 2003 Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, or SONDA. However, Jones - an actualized transgender woman - said that wording was taken out after the bathroom issue was brought up.
"They got it passed, but they threw the transgender community under the bus," Jones said, "and in doing so there was an uproar within the trans community, the LGBTQ community, as you can imagine, that basically excluding one of the groups in the community for the sake of the others.”
Another provision to the law allows people to choose which bathroom they use based upon the sex they identify with, instead of the one they were born with. Jones said the community has been doing it for years and called the sometimes controversial topic a nonissue.