Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

Schneiderman outlines LGBT protections

June 8, 2016

As published on Clarence Bee on June 8, 2016.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently reiterated his support for the LGBT community, in the midst of Pride Week 2016.

“My office is deeply committed to the principle of equal protection under the law, and assuring that all New Yorkers’ civil rights – including LGBT New Yorkers – are vigorously protected,” he said. “ This month we raise the rainbow flag, whose colors symbolize the diversity of the LGBT community in our state and nation, and honor the status of those diverse community members as equal citizens.”

Efforts by the attorney general’s office to ensure protections for all New Yorkers have included: the Boy Scouts of America rescinding its nationwide ban on openly gay adult leaders; extended same-sex spousal benefits for employees at major multinational corporations like ExxonMobil and Thomson Reuters; and the defense of New York’s Marriage Equality Act from legal challenge.

These efforts additionally included protesting discriminatory LGBT legislation in North Carolina and Mississippi by banning all non-essential state-funded travel to these states and a major training initiative with hospitals and health providers around the state to promote competent and respectful care of transgender patients.

The New York State Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the areas of employment, housing, credit, education, and public accommodations. State law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of marital status, and together these protections do not allow for discrimination against same-sex couples. Because these laws cover public accommodations like event spaces or venues, catering companies, bakeries, florists, or photography businesses, it is unlawful for those businesses to refuse to provide services to same-sex couples in the same way that they would provide services to opposite-sex couples. Nor does state law allow businesses to claim that they are exempt from providing services because of any religious objection to same-sex couples.

In addition to New York State law, many localities also protect residents from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Some of these include the cities of Albany, Troy, Rochester, Buffalo, Binghamton, Ithaca, and New York City, as well as Westchester, Nassau, Suffolk, Albany, Tompkins, and Onondaga Counties.

State law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. A person’s gender identity is their actual or perceived gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression whether or not it is different from that typically associated with the sex assigned to a person at birth. The New York State Human Rights Law, and associated regulations, also prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity in the areas of employment, housing, credit, education, and public accommodations. This prohibition includes discrimination against a person who is transitioning from one gender to another, and it also includes discrimination against a person who is gender non-conforming in appearance, behavior, or expression. Such discrimination can occur, for instance, when a public accommodation like a restaurant, store, hospital, or clinic forbids a transgender or gender non-conforming person from using a restroom or changing room that accords with the person’s gender identity.

The New York State Education Department issued guidance last year concerning transgender and gender non-conforming students. This guidance, among other things, encourages schools to:

Develop a plan for addressing the needs of transgender students, including needs related to a student’s gender transition, like the student’s use of a new name and/or pronouns at school.

Update student records and maintain the confidentiality of student records related to or concerning a student’s gender transition, while ensuring a student receives appropriate medical care as needed on a school campus.

Ensure that transgender and gender non-conforming students have voluntary access to restrooms, locker rooms, and other changing facilities that accord with those students’ gender identities.

New Yorkers who believe they have been discriminated against based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau at (212) 416-8250 to file a complaint.