Activists take to Flanagan’s office for transgender rights

Activists take to Flanagan’s office for transgender rights

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Protestors hold up signs along Main Street in Smithtown on Saturday in protest of the Senate failing to vote on GENDA. Photo from Juli Grey-Owens

Activists took to the Smithtown office of state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) over the weekend to express their disappointment with the legislature’s failure to pass a state civil rights bill for the transgender community.

GENDA, also known as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, would have helped restrict discrimination against transgender citizens in areas of housing, employment or public access, which could include things like restaurants or cab rides. The bill, which made it through the state Assembly for nine years straight, died in the Senate when the legislative session ended last week, spurring the Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition to protest outside Flanagan’s office on Saturday.

“The transgender community has again been prevented from receiving the basic protections all New Yorkers enjoy” said Juli Grey-Owens, executive director of the Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition. “In the past, Sen. Flanagan had said he supported this bill to protect his transgender constituents, but now that he has the power to finally bring the bill to the floor for a vote, he seems to have forgotten his commitment to us.”

The Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition is a not-for-profit social justice organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, teaching and empowerment. The group hosted a community forum back in March alongside other activist organizations calling for the Senate to step up and pass the legislation, or at the very least, move the conversation forward.

At that time, Flanagan spokesman Scott Reif said the Senate majority leader “prides himself on being open and transparent,” adding that Flanagan was listening.

“The senator routinely meets with all groups, as he has done for 30 years, throughout his entire public career, regardless of whether he agrees with them or not,” Reif said in an email to TBR News Media in March. “The decision to take a meeting is never influenced by a group’s position on an issue; it is dictated solely by what his schedule will allow.”

Grey-Owens said the transgender community was a constant target of discrimination, and Saturday’s demonstration came less than one week after a gunman opened fire at a gay club in Florida, murdering 49 patrons, in what quickly became the biggest mass shooting in U.S. history.

“The National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed that 26 percent of trans people lost a job due to bias, 50 percent were harassed on the job, 20 percent were evicted or denied housing, and 78 percent of trans students were harassed or assaulted,” Grey-Owens said. “We will continue to fight for our community and the rights that are being denied us.”