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 today announced 12 members of the New York congressional delegation joined his growing campaign to legalize surrogacy and ban the gay and trans panic legal defense before the end of 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. The congressional delegation members joined the Governor's coalition today following a rally yesterday at the LGBT Community Center where the Governor was joined by several LGBTQ advocacy groups, along with Bravo TV producer and host Andy Cohen. On May 30, the Governor launched a campaign and website dedicated to passing the two proposals before the end of session.
"New York State is the progressive capital of the nation and in these divisive times we must continue to lead with bold action that promotes acceptance and equality," Governor Cuomo said. "The status quo on surrogacy and the 'gay and trans panic' defense is repugnant to our values and with this growing campaign we are sending a clear message to lawmakers: inaction is unacceptable - pass the bills now."
"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.
Representative Eliot Engel said, "It is outrageous that in New York State in 2019 gestation surrogacy is not yet legal and individuals are able to use what's called the gay and trans panic defense to justify their despicable behavior. These issues are not just important to the LGBTQ community, but to all New Yorkers in the fight for true equality for all. I thank the Governor for his commitment to fixing these egregious wrongs."
Representative José Serrano said, "As we look back on 50 years of LGBT activism since the Stonewall uprising, we have an opportunity to truly honor the legacy of those who fought for equal rights. Ending the ban on surrogacy and doing away with the bigoted gay-trans panic legal defense is the ultimate tribute to the heroes of the LGBT movement. I urge the State Legislature to step up and pass these two pieces of legislation for Governor Cuomo to sign them into law."
Representative Jerrold Nadler said, "New York is home to the birth of the LGBTQ rights movement, and has made historic progress toward equality for all New Yorkers, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. With all the progress we have made, it is unimaginable that New York State laws still exist that serve to hinder equal rights, and even codify homophobia as a legal defense. I commend Governor Cuomo and State Senator Brad Hoylman for leading the charge in support of the legalization of gestational surrogacy and banning the gay and trans panic defense, and I urge the legislature to pass these critical bills before the legislative session ends."
Representative Carolyn Maloney said, "No one should have to leave their home to start a family because of New York's antiquated surrogacy laws. That is long overdue to fix. It is also absolutely ridiculous that anyone can still claim gay or trans "panic" as a defense for assaulting someone. It has been an outrageous, hateful defense and should have been eliminated years ago. The Legislature right now can legalize gestational surrogacy and ban these homophobic defense claims. It can right wrongs that have plagued the state for decades. I thank Governor Cuomo for his continued support of the LGBTQ community."
Representative Nydia Velázquez said, "There is no excuse for bigotry or discrimination of any kind, and this is especially true for the laws by which we expect our citizens to abide. It is heartbreaking that an infertile couple or LGBTQ couple planning to conceive a child through surrogacy must leave the state to do so, and the "gay and trans panic" defense is absolutely sickening. New York lawmakers must do what's right before they leave Albany for the year. I implore the legislature to pass these bills, removing discrimination and homophobia from New York's law books once and for all."
Representative Gregory Meeks said, "Since New York State was the epicenter for the LGBTQ rights movement, it is only fitting that we continue our legacy by ending the ban on surrogacy this session. I thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and look forward to working with him and advocacy groups to secure the civil rights of the LGBTQ community."
Representative Brian Higgins said, "As the home of the Stonewall uprising and the first large state to pass marriage equality, New York has long been a national leader in the fight for equal rights for the LGBTQ community. After passing GENDA and banning the despicable practice of conversion therapy this year, the next logical steps toward achieving true equality are legalizing gestational surrogacy for LGBTQ couples and couples struggling with infertility, as well as ending the abhorrent gay and trans panic defense that allows individuals to use their bias as a defense for committing a hate crime. Governor Cuomo's push to pass these critical pieces of legislation before the end of session demonstrates his ongoing commitment to the LGBTQ community, and I thank him for these ongoing efforts."
Representative Sean Patrick Maloney said, "Raising three amazing kids with my husband has been the great blessing of my life. It's shameful that the legislature has chosen inaction instead of doing what is right. New York has been the leading state in the LGBTQ movement since the Stonewall Uprisings, and we cannot forget the sacrifices made or how far we've come. I applaud the Governor for his continued support for the LGBTQ community and am happy to have him as an ally in this fight."
Representative Grace Meng said, "Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, New York has been a national leader on LGBTQ rights. As we mark Pride Month, I commend the governor for his leadership on these important issues and look forward to working with him to further strengthen rights and protections for all LGBTQ New Yorkers."
Representative Kathleen Rice said, "Time and time again, Governor Cuomo has made it clear that there is no place for hate in New York State, and he is delivering that message yet again with his campaign to legalize gestational surrogacy and ban the gay and trans panic defense. Both of these issues are critical if we want New York to remain at the forefront of LGBTQ rights and equal rights for all. If they are not passed we are failing the countless New Yorkers who want to start a family of their own or who have lost someone to a hate crime only to see the attacker receive a lesser sentence or even avoid jail time. It's time for the legislature to follow Governor Cuomo's leader and act on these important measures."
Representative Adriano Espaillat said, "When it comes to progressive action to promote equality for members of the LGBTQ community, New York has been on the right side of history, but we are not done yet. With these two restrictive, discriminatory laws still in effect today, we are only hindering our ability to make progress and protect the equal rights of all New Yorkers. I was proud to vote for same-sex marriage while serving in the New York State Senate, and I am proud to stand with Governor Cuomo today as he continues his ongoing fight to legalize gestational surrogacy and ban the 'gay and trans panic' defense in yet another step toward fairness and equality for all."
Representative Max Rose said, "Rather than have to travel to another state to conceive—which is shameful—LGBTQ and couples struggling with fertility deserve the right to have a child here in the state of New York, with the strongest protections in the nation for gestational surrogates. That is how we lead—and I applaud Governor Cuomo for making this a priority."
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.