LGBTQ Advocacy Groups Join Governor Cuomo's Growing Campaign
Legalization of Gestational Surrogacy Would Allow Same-Sex Couples and Couples Struggling with Infertility to Conceive a Child Through Assisted Reproduction
Ban on Gay and Trans Panic Legal Defense Would Prohibit People Accused of Violent Crimes from Using Homophobia and Transphobia as a Viable Defense Strategy in Court
Both Proposals Were Advanced as Part of Governor's Executive Budget
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, along with Bravo TV producer and host Andy Cohen, today rallied to legalize gestational surrogacy and ban the gay and trans panic defense before the end of the legislative session on June 19. Both bills were proposed in the Governor's FY 2020 Executive Budget but were not adopted by the legislature, leaving them to be considered outside of the budget during the remainder of the legislative session. On May 30, the Governor launched a campaign and website dedicated to passing the two proposals before the end of session, and LGBTQ advocacy groups are joining the Governor's growing coalition.
"We are the nation's leader, if not the international leader, when it comes to LGBTQ equality - but we still have more to do," Governor Cuomo said. "With only seven days remaining in the legislative session, there are still two very important issues we need to pass - legalizing surrogacy and banning the gay and trans panic defense. And we need to get these done now because New York is the diversity capital of the nation and we believe that diversity is our greatest strength. We celebrate it, we don't fear it. We believe the strongest four letter word is love, and we are going to stand up in the name of love, community, acceptance, tolerance, and we are going to show this nation the way forward. That is the best way to start World Pride, with getting these proposals passed and New York once again leading the way."
"New York is the birthplace of the LGBTQ rights movement, and we're leading the way in our efforts for equal rights and protections for all," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "With GENDA and legislation banning conversion therapy now state law, we're taking steps to ensure justice and equality - but we're not finished yet. Legislation legalizing gestational surrogacy and eliminating the 'gay and trans panic' defense will further our efforts to make sure LGBTQ individuals can grow their families and that they're protected from acts of hatred and violence."
Andy Cohen said, "I'm so proud to stand alongside Governor Cuomo today, and to acknowledge his tremendous work on behalf of the LGBTQ community. From marriage equality, to GENDA, to ending New York's ban on surrogacy, Governor Cuomo is ensuring New York remains the progressive capital of the nation. In 2019, no one should have to forfeit the joy of raising a child — not in an era when modern medicine is performing new miracles every day, and when we have reached a wide consensus that the only prerequisite to forming a family is love. I look forward to the Child-Parent Security Act becoming law so that New York's modern families have the freedom and protection to form families, no matter how they are created."
Legalizing Gestational Surrogacy
Gestational surrogacy provides same-sex couples and couples struggling with fertility the ability to conceive a child with the help of medical advances in assisted reproduction. Current state laws not only ban gestational surrogacy, but also fail to clearly define who the legal parents are when a child is conceived via reproductive technology. To broaden the inclusivity of New York's reproductive health laws, the Governor proposed legislation in the FY 2020 Executive Budget to lift the ban on surrogacy contracts that would also ensure protections for all parties involved.
Banning the Gay and Trans Panic Defense
Current gay and trans panic defenses allow those responsible for violent crimes against LGBTQ people to receive a lesser sentence, and in some cases, even avoid being convicted, by placing the blame on a victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The passage of this bill would close a loophole in state law that currently allows individuals to use the gay and trans panic defenses after attacking another based upon a perception, or discovery of, that victim's gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
We are the nation's leader, if not the international leader, when it comes to LGBTQ equality - but we still have more to do.
Cynara Charles-Pierre said, "It's hard for me to put into words the pain and disappointment that you go through when you struggle with infertility, but my story is not unique for women in New York and across the country. It's a struggle that so many of us go through before determining that surrogacy is our only option. I'd like to thank Governor Cuomo for his tremendous leadership on this issue, which will allow so many New Yorkers to experience the joy of bringing a child into this world, no matter the path you take to make it happen."
Glennda Testone, Executive Director of NYC's LGBT Community Center said, "The world is recognizing New York as the historic forefront of the LGBTQ rights movement on this 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and now it's up to our lawmakers to take action and prove that we are still leading the way today. New York must advance justice for LGBTQ people by passing a ban on the gay/trans "panic" defense, so that it will no longer be possible to blame LGBTQ victims of hate crimes for the violence committed against them. And we must modernize New York law by legalizing surrogacy so that LGBTQ families will be free from the lengthy, invasive process that many currently undergo to become parents. We cannot pass up the opportunity to reinforce our state's standing as a champion of civil and human rights this year."
Human Rights Campaign National Field Director Marty Rouse said, "New York is often at the forefront of the fight for equality. It is critical for our leaders to send the unequivocal message that there is no justification for anti-LGBTQ violence and to ensure that all parents have the opportunity to start their families without barriers. Banning the so-called LGBTQ panic defense and modernizing surrogacy laws would make the Empire State safer and more welcoming for LGBTQ people and their families -- and we thank Governor Cuomo, lawmakers and activists for their bold leadership on these critical issues."
Sam Brinton, Head of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project said, "LGBTQ youth, and especially young trans women of color, contact The Trevor Project in crisis with feelings of fear walking down the street as their true selves. Laws that eliminate the "gay panic" defense stand as a reminder that violence based on perceived sexual orientation or gender identity has no place in New York."
Delores Nettles, Mother of Islan Nettles, who was killed in 2013 and whose attacker used the trans panic defense, said, "The gay and trans panic defense is a disgusting excuse for bigoted individuals to get away with despicable crimes, and it has no place in the State of New York. Any parent who loses a child to a hate crime should not have to fear that their child's assailant could receive a lesser sentence or even walk free because of this biased loophole. I am grateful that Governor Cuomo is spearheading the effort to ban these defenses and for his commitment to making New York a safer, more just place for the LGBTQ community."
Kelsey Louie, CEO, Gay Men's Health Crisis, said, "As we celebrate Pride Month, we are also approaching a deadline in Albany to effect change for LGBT New Yorkers. Today, Gay Men's Health Crisis joins New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and partner organizations to urge the New York State Legislature to honor the 50th anniversary of Stonewall with action. We echo the call to repeal draconian surrogacy laws and the so-called gay and trans 'panic' defense. Everyone in New York State, including same-sex couples, deserves the right to create a family in a way that makes sense for them. And trans people, particularly trans women of color, have the right to feel safe and be protected—not harmed—by the law. New York State has a strong history of advancing necessary legislation for LGBT communities, and we ask the Legislature to do so again on these two important issues."
Jean Malpas, Founder & Director, The Gender & Family Project of the Ackerman Institute, said, "As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, it is imperative to enact fundamental reforms on behalf of LGBTQ New Yorkers. Our state's ban on gestational surrogacy and the legal leeway on homophobic and transphobic crimes are shameful, based on archaic stereotypes that continue to cause pain for many Americans. We applaud the Governor Cuomo for his continued commitment to equality."
Ron Poole-Dayan, Executive Director of Men Having Babies said, "The CPSA uniquely adheres to an ethical code endorsed by LGBT family associations across the USA, Europe and Asia. We are proud and inspired that Governor Cuomo is leading the way on this issue. Along with the elimination of the Gay and Trans Panic defense, these are critical components to achieving full equality for the LGBTQ community. The legislature must now follow his lead and act before the end of the legislative session, or risk New York going backward on LGBTQ rights instead of forward."
David Kilmnick, PhD, President of LGBT Network said, "New York State has long been a beacon of hope for the LGBTQ community, and Governor Cuomo is continuing that legacy by fighting for the legalization of gestational surrogacy and a ban on the gay and trans panic defense. As the largest suburban provider of services for the LGBTQ community in the nation, we are fighting tirelessly to ensure the American dream of having a family is afforded to all New Yorker's. Governor Cuomo recognizes the importance of these critical issues that will bring greater equality to LGBTQ New Yorkers. We are proud to live in a state with a leader who is so committed to equal rights for all."
Beverly Tillery, Executive director, New York City Anti-Violence Project said, "New York State must legalize gestational surrogacy and prohibit the gay and trans panic legal defense before this session closes. We cannot tolerate these homophobic and transphobic defenses to be used in our courts. When individuals claim a gay or trans panic defense, they are justifying their hate violence by blaming the victim, simply because of who they are. These bills will change the lives of New Yorkers across the state, but with inaction from the legislature, the deplorable gay and trans panic defense will remain on the books, and same-sex couples will be denied the ability to create their families in the best way they see fit. In order for our state to continue to be a national leader in advancing justice for all regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, we must take this step."
Risa Levine Board Member, RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association., said, "New York's Infertile Families need the opportunity to build their families in a safe way, using their own doctors, and close to their homes. It is time to undo the backwards restrictions that inhibit New Yorkers from taking advantage of all family building options. We are so grateful to Governor Cuomo for recognizing this need, and his leadership in legalizing compensated gestational surrogacy in New York."
Guillermo Chacón, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS said, "Governor Cuomo recognizes that gay and trans rights are human rights, and he is continuing his fight for several key issues today that are so important to the LGBTQ community. I am proud to join the Governor today in demanding action on these two critical pieces of legislation from the legislature. By legalizing surrogacy and banning the gay and trans panic defense, we are taking yet another critical step forward toward creating a truly equal New York for all."
Mohamed Q. Amin, Founder & Executive Director, Caribbean Equality Project said, "It is shameful that in 2019 our legislative leaders have not taken action to remove this antiquated and discriminatory law from the books. The "gay and trans panic" defense only serves to hold us back, undermining the progress that this great state has made toward bringing equality to the LGBTQ community. I thank Governor Cuomo for all he has done to advance the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers everywhere. We are calling on the NY State legislature to affirm and protect the lives of Queer and TGNC Caribbean New Yorkers by unequivocally stand against anti-LGBTQ motivated hate violence."
Amanda Babine, Director of Policy & Programs at New York Transgender Advocacy Group said, "With just seven days left in the legislative session, it is crucial that we pass banning the "gay and trans panic" defense. This year alone, 10 Transgender women of color have been found dead, one right here in New York. We also support legalize gestational surrogacy which will help LGBTQI families grow and thrive here in New York. Both of these bills will enhance the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers. We cannot wait for 2020—or beyond—to make things right. The New York Transgender Advocacy Group stand with Governor Cuomo as he champions this cause and we encourage our lawmakers to pass these bills before leaving Albany for the year."
Richard Burns, Interim CEO, Lambda Legal said, "Legalizing gestational surrogacy and eliminating the Gay and Trans Panic legal defense in New York are some of the next steps in bringing full equality to the LGBTQ community. It is vital that LGBTQ people in New York be able to form loving families and be free from the vicious cycle of violence against our communities perpetuated by the "gay panic" and "trans panic" so-called defenses. The legislature must act before the end of session on these issues, or risk New York failing to live up to its reputation as the leading state in LGBTQ equality. Lambda Legal commends the Governor for his powerful advocacy on these issues."
Throughout his administration, Governor Cuomo has been a champion of LGBTQ rights, most notably passing the Marriage Equality Act in 2011. Earlier this year, the Governor signed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, prohibiting employers, educational institutions, landlords, creditors, and others from discriminating against individuals on the basis of gender identity or expression, and making offenses committed on the basis of gender identity or expression hate crimes under New York State law. The Governor also signed legislation banning the practice of conversion therapy by expanding the definition of professional misconduct for professions licensed under the education law to include engaging in conversion therapy with a patient under the age of eighteen years.
Most recently, in anticipation of the potential rollback of critical Affordable Care Act provisions, Governor Cuomo directed the Department of Health to issue regulations prohibiting health care providers from discriminating against transgender patients, and directed the Department of Financial Services to issue regulations expanding anti-discrimination protections for transgender individuals when accessing health insurance. These directives were in direct response to the Trump administration's proposal to repeal a federal regulation that clarifies that the Affordable Care Act's non-discrimination protections based on sex include protections based on gender identity. By removing these protections, approximately 90,300 transgender New Yorkers would be exposed to unfair, blatant and unlawful discrimination.
In direct response to the federal government's rollbacks on federal protections for transgender students in 2017, the Governor directed the State Education Department to issue a directive to school districts reinforcing the protections from discrimination and harassment afforded to transgender students under New York State law.