An estimated 100-150 Long Island residents marched down Franklin Avenue today, from Garden City to the steps of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola, in support of transgender civil rights. At the 4th Annual March and Rally for Transgender Civil Rights, members and allies of the LGBT community were joined by elected officials to urge legislators to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which would add gender identity and expression as a protected class to New York’s existing human rights and hate crimes laws.
Marchers held high signs with messages “Trans Lives Matter,” “Pass GENDA Now,” “Nassau, It’s Time” and “Accept Diversity” as they made their way to the rallying point. Passing cars honked their horns to show their support along the route.
District 5 Legislator, and candidate for County Executive, Laura Curran spoke at the meeting place for the march. “Our job in local government is to keep people safe and make sure everybody is protected—no matter where they live, no matter who they love,” she said.
Juli Grey-Owens, executive director of the Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition, organized the event to fight for justice and equality for the transgender and gender non-conforming community.
“Nassau County remains the largest county in New York State to not have explicit laws protecting the transgender community,” she said. “Legal experts versed in trans rights warn that the county law is too general and could be misused or misinterpreted.”
Grey-Owens implored legislators to “make sure all Nassau County citizens are completely and unquestionably secure and safe from transphobic discrimination” and “take care of our most vulnerable citizens.”
She continued, “New Yorkers pride themselves about living in a state whose history is based on justice and equality. The women’s movement was started here. Important labor laws were formed here. Important civil rights works began in New York State.”
The New York State Assembly has passed GENDA ten years in a row and it has the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, but the state senate has never brought the bill to the floor for a vote. Grey-Owens named Long Island state senators Elaine Philips and John Flanagan as two individuals who have the power to move the GENDA bill forward.
Joanne Borden, a transgender woman and trans rights activist, spoke of her years-long fight with the Republican legislature for transgender civil rights. “With the pressure from you here today, we are starting to win. We must keep up that pressure and never settle for a limitation on our equality,” she said. “Partial equality is no equality at all.”
District 16 Legislator Arnold Drucker spoke of times in history when laws were needed to enact a progressive change in society: “More than 150 years ago, we needed the abolishment of slavery to be the law of the land. Almost 100 years ago, we needed to pass the 19th amendment to grand women the right to vote. Almost 70 years ago, we needed the Supreme Court to end segregation. In 1964, we needed Congress to pass a comprehensive civil rights act. Just two years ago, the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage to be constitutional.”
Drucker continued, “Transgender people are just like all other citizens and lawful residents in this country…They are entitled to the same fundamental rights and equal protection under the law when it comes to housing, employment and public services.”
LGBT Youth Services Coordinator Aiden Kaplan said, “We’re here not only to fight for our rights, but to celebrate our community. Pay attention to the young faces beside you. It is our job as older members of our community and as legislators to stand up and fight for and protect these young individuals who are with us.”
One such young individual took the microphone next. Logan, who identifies as a transgender male, said he worried every day that someone would try to hurt him at school “just because I am who I am.”
Speeches continued though rain began falling and the rally ended with as much enthusiasm as it began.
New York City, Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Ithaca, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Suffolk, Tompkins and Westchester Counties have already passed GENDA-like laws. Nassau County remains the largest county in New York without laws that protect transgender individuals from discrimination.
The Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition is planning a similar march on Senator Flanagan’s Smithtown office on Saturday, June 24.