Perpetuating the bias in Ulster County

Ulster County is between Albany and New York City and contains the cities of Poughkeepsie and Kingston. A committee of the County Legislature unanimously endorsed a resolution to schedule a July 11 public hearing on a proposed law to protect people from being discriminated against on the basis of their gender identity.

Committee members noted Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order that covers discrimination against someone who is transgender. But Legislator Jennifer Schwartz-Berky, D-Kingston, said the governor’s directive does not provided not enough protection.

Executive orders issued by the state governor are not the same as legislation passed by the Legislature. They are subject to judicial review ... and they might be overturned.

People who consider themselves transgender are not covered by any laws that protect them from workplace discrimination, harassment and discrimination at school, economic insecurity, housing discrimination ... and health care discrimination.

--Schwartz-Berky (D-Kingston)

The proposed county law has the intent of encouraging transgender people to use single-sex facilities that are consistent with their gender regardless of their sex assigned at birth or their medical history.

The law states that business owners and managers could not “directly or indirectly publish, circulate, issue, display, post or mail any written or printed communications, notice or advertisement” stating that services will be withheld based on gender identity.

Complaints about discrimination based on gender identity would be filed with the county Human Rights Commission, and a hearing would be conducted within 30 days. If the commission agrees there was a violation, the offender could be fined up to $250 per instance.

But not all is going smoothly, of course.

Legislature Chairman Ken Ronk, R-Wallkill, said after the Legislature’s attorney declared the county didn’t have the authority to unilaterally enact the local laws, he recommended Democrats seek permission from the state Legislature through a mechanism called a “home-rule request.” Democrats dispute that state permission is needed for the county to pass the local laws, but introduced the home-rule request to move the measures forward.

So Republicans Republicans amended the proposed local laws to set an effective date that would come after approval of the state legislation. Since the state legislative session ends on Wednesday, this was clearly a move to kill the measure.

You have so eloquently eviscerated this legislation, and you have done so in one fell swoop.

We witness the power of the majority.

--Minority Leader Hector Rodriguez (D-New Paltz)

Every time that we so-call kick the can own the road or remove from ourselves the power to do something, we’re taking away our power.


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Poughkeepsie is in Dutchess County.

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