June is Pride Month, and there are many ceremonies and events planned to celebrate the LGBTQ community and the great successes achieved in advancing civil rights. June is also the final month of the legislative session in Albany, where, not surprisingly, not much is expected to get done in the final days.
One reason little will get done is that it is an election year, and taking a stance on a controversial issue is not something politicians do in an election year.
Another reason is that we have a split legislature, with Republicans holding on to control of the state Senate by a narrow margin, while Democrats dominate the Assembly. There are a lot of arguments about why it is generally good to have a legislative body split between two parties. The checks and balances often lead to a more-stable government where one party cannot pass laws that move a state too rapidly in one ideological direction.
But this argument holds no water when it comes to the state Senate’s failure to pass, or even vote on, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA.
The GENDA bill has been around for more than a decade in various forms and has passed the Assembly 10 times since 2008, yet it has never even been voted on in the state Senate. The bill is far from controversial. The crux of the bill is to implement similar legal protections against discrimination to those already available to racial minorities. Basically, it prevents employers from firing people because they are gay, or stops a landlord from evicting tenants because they are trans.
Fortunately, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already implemented many of these policies through executive order, so not much would change if GENDA passed. Yet despite this fact, the state Senate, led by Republicans, fails to act. They also offer no reasonable argument as to why they cannot even bring up for a vote a bill that would provide legal protections that all humans deserve.
Their inaction over the past few years can be explained away and spun only to a point. We have reached that point. This is the last chance state Senate Republicans will get to be on the right side of history and pass GENDA, or at least bring it up for a vote and make a coherent argument as to why it should not pass.
And, if there are parts of the bill that they do not like, then they should put forth an amended, more narrow version that at least carves out the most basic protections for LGBTQ people. Doing this would at least show that they care.
If Republicans once again ignore this issue as the legislative session winds down it will be an insult to the LGBTQ community. We hope they heed these words and do the right thing.