Legislation Repeals Section of Law That Was Intended to Prohibit Loitering for the Purpose of Engaging in Prostitution, But Instead Has Led to Discriminatory Enforcement of Transgender and Cisgender Women of Color
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (S.2253/A.654) repealing portions of a law - known as the 'Walking While Trans' ban - that led to arbitrary and discriminatory policing of transgender women. The law, originally passed in 1976 with the intent to prohibit loitering for the purpose of prostitution, has been used with an extremely broad definition of loitering that led to the arrest of law-abiding transgender and cisgender women of color. Many local district attorneys have voluntarily stopped enforcing the law, recognizing its discriminatory impact.
"COVID exposed low tide in America and the 'walking while trans' policy is one example of the ugly undercurrents of injustices that transgender New Yorkers - especially those of color - face simply for walking down the street," Governor Cuomo said. "For too long trans people have been unfairly targeted and disproportionately policed for innocent, lawful conduct based solely on their appearance. Repealing the archaic 'walking while trans' ban is a critical step toward reforming our policing system and reducing the harassment and criminalization transgender people face simply for being themselves. New York has always led the nation on LGBTQ rights, and we will continue that fight until we achieve true equality for all."
Senator Brad Hoylman said, "New York today corrects an injustice in our penal code that has permitted law enforcement to arrest transgender women—namely those of color, along with immigrants and LGBTQ youth—simply for walking down the street and the clothes they wear. This outdated, discriminatory statute has led to hundreds of unnecessary arrests of transgender women of color and a broader culture of fear and intimidation for transgender and gender nonconforming New Yorkers. Thanks to the hard work and determination of the LGBTQ community—in particular, transgender and gender nonconforming New Yorkers who bravely shared their stories—New York has repealed this statute once and for all. I'm deeply grateful to LGBTQ+ advocates, including TS Candii, Bianey Garcia, Kiara St. James, Norma Ureiro and many others, four their passionate advocacy. And I'm grateful for the efforts of Assemblymember Amy Paulin, who was instrumental in ensuring passage of this legislation in her chamber. We are able to pass this bill today because of the historic leadership of Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and it's being enshrined into law today because of Governor Andrew Cuomo's continued commitment to LGBTQ equality in New York."
Assemblymember Amy Paulin said, "The arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of the 'walking while trans' law has become an unbearable affront to justice and has led to the disproportionate targeting of some of the most marginalized people in our society, including women of color and members of the transgender community. Repealing this archaic law is a victory for equity and justice for all New Yorkers. I thank Senator Hoylman for all of his work on this bill in his chamber and I thank Governor Cuomo for his commitment to this issue and signing this bill today."
“New Yorkers have been fighting for years to end what has become stop-and-frisk for transgender women of color, and the Walking While Trans ban enabled the profiling and arrest of transgender New Yorkers for doing nothing more than standing or walking on the street,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “Today, we mark another step forward for equality in New York with the State Legislature's repeal of the ban. Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Carl Heastie, and bill sponsors Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Amy Paulin heard our community's call for change and made this important issue an early focus of this legislative session.We thank grassroots advocates, led by the Repeal Walking While Trans coalition, for their strong advocacy on this bill and we look forward to the day when the repeal takes effect.”
Melissa Sklarz, Transgender Rights Advocate, said, "After years of organizing and lobbying by the TGNCNB communities and our allies, the New York state legislature passed The Walking While Trans anti-loitering ban and the bill was signed into law today by Governor Cuomo. Thank you to the Governor, the Senate, The Assembly, Senator Brad Hoylman, AM Amy Paulin, TS Candii, and the progressive army of leaders who believe that trans women of color have the same rights of assembly as all New Yorkers and will no longer be targeted for being trans, for being black or brown, for being immigrants, and for being women."
Norma Ureiro, Member of Make the Road New York, on behalf of the organization's 24,000 members, said, "For more than 40 years, Black and brown transgender woman like me have been harassed, profiled, and arrested for expressing our gender identity in public. I am thrilled to hear that today the state legislature made history and repealed the Walking While Trans Ban, and that Governor Cuomo will continue his support by signing A3355/S1351. The 'loitering with the intent for prostitution' (P.L. §240.37) statute is sexist, racist and transphobic. Once, my boyfriend and I were arrested under the penal code 240.37 for simply walking together and holding hands, and until this day I still carry the scars and fears of the interaction with the police and the unjust arrest. But today I am excited that we will be able to provide protection to future generations of transgender women, reduce the interactions with police and violence against trans women of color."
TS Candii, Executive Director of Black Trans News, said, "After four decades of this discriminatory law, New York has finally repealed the discriminatory #WalkingWhileTrans ban. For too long this statute has been used as a weapon to allow law enforcement to harass Black and brown transgender women and non-binary folks for simply having the audacity to walk around and exist in public spaces. New York is a safer place because the #WalkingWhileTrans ban was repealed and sealed. We applaud Senator Holyman, Assemblymember Paulin and all of our legislative advocates for their advocacy. We also applaud Governor Cuomo for swiftly signing this bill into law. Of course, we thank all the advocates, led by Black and brown trans women, for all the sweat equity, dedication, passion, pain, and work we put into this campaign. The fight for trans equity and existence is far from over, but this is a pivotal step."
Priya Nair, Former Edie Windsor, Marsha P. Johnson, and Sylvia Rivera New York State LGBTQ Fellow, said, "The repeal of Section 240.37 of the New York State Penal Code is a huge victory for Black and Brown transgender New Yorkers. This archaic statute has been used to target women of color, particularly trans women of color, for simply going about their daily lives. Thank you to the Governor for supporting this bill and for eliminating this discriminatory statute from New York's books once and for all."
Richard Saenz, Senior Attorney, Criminal Justice & Police Misconduct Strategist, Lambda Legal, said, "Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of LGBTQ people and everyone living with HIV, applauds today's passage and signing of the bill to repeal P.L. § 240.37, the Walking While Trans ban. We thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill that will remove an overbroad and vague law which is used to target and criminalize marginalized women - specifically and disproportionately transgender women of color."
Donna Lieberman, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union, said, "Today, Albany lawmakers and Governor Cuomo recognized the human rights imperative to repeal the Walking While Trans law and seal prior convictions, removing one of the most nefarious stop-and-frisk laws for women of color from the penal code for good. For decades, law enforcement has used this constitutionally dubious statute to target Black and Brown transgender women and non-binary people for merely having the audacity to exist in public spaces. As a result, thousands of New Yorkers have been irreparably harmed by false arrests, profiling and abuse that undermine their access to housing, education, and employment. The ways women of color present themselves should never be policed, criminalized, or result in an arrest or criminal record. We thank the Governor for supporting Black and Brown transgender and gender nonconforming New Yorkers over the past year by calling for this discriminatory statute to be wiped from New York’s penal code. We celebrate this end to decades of dehumanization alongside our transgender and gender nonconforming advocate partners, and will continue to fight for the dignity of women of color statewide.”
Tanya Asapansa-Johnson Walker, Co-Chair Equality New York , said, "Governor Cuomo has made LGBTQI history again by signing the repeal of the Walking While Trans bill into law today. His leadership is helping move the Transgender community closer to equality. This groundbreaking legislation will allow Transgender people to live their authentic truth without fear of arrest for doing ordinary things like walking down the street and being themselves."
"I have been calling for an end to the cruel 'walking while trans' ban for years, and I am proud that we finally repealed this discriminatory law that targeted transgender and communities of color for too long. No one should be harassed for being themselves," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "New York has long served as a beacon of hope for LGBTQ communities, and we are proud to continue our march forward for inclusion and equality."