By Sabina Mollot
Meet the New York State Senate’s most frustrated member.
It’s the end of another legislative term, and yet, even the recent massacre at an Orlando gay club, the deadliest mass shooting in American history, has not been enough of an event to lead to gun reforms. Nor has it motivated Albany to pass protections for the LGBT population.
So noted Senator Brad Hoylman in an interview with Town & Village last week. For example, one bill Hoylman’s pushing that went nowhere would have banned anyone from the federal no-fly list from buying guns. This is separate from similar federal legislation.
For this, the Democrat senator laid the blame on the usual culprits for blocking any bills he authors or supports — the Republican majority.
“The Republicans apparently have no appetite to strengthen gun laws beyond the SAFE Act that was passed two years ago,” said Hoylman. The SAFE Act was passed as a response to the school shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, and call for a variety of restrictions on gun use and buying and selling. A few include keeping guns kept away from household members convicted of a felony or domestic crime, requiring ammunitions dealers to do background checks, requiring reporting of stolen guns within 24 hours and requiring that all purchases go through licensed dealers. However, Hoylman added, the act was only passed after removing a requirement to create a database of ammunition purchases. The official reason was “that there are technical challenges.” But Hoylman said he doesn’t buy that.
And don’t get the openly gay senator started on his legislation aimed at LGBT protections. They’re “absolutely” facing opposition. In fact, said Hoylman, “LGBT legislation is on some sort of blacklist in the Senate. When a bill has the acronym LGBT on it, it’s dead on arrival.”
He then cited how none have been signed into law since legalizing same-sex marriage in 2011. Transgender people in particular, said Hoylman, “face an inordinate amount of discrimination in everyday life.”
Hoylman has authored bills that would do the following:
Ban use of what is known as “conversion therapy” on minors
Make technical adjustments to Estates, Powers and Trusts Law to reflect marriage equality
Revoke tax exempt status for non-religious groups that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity (inspired by the Boy Scouts)
Provide for collection of demographic information on sexual orientation and gender identity by state agencies
Require LGBT-specific training for runaway and homeless youth employees
Prevent someone’s transgender status from being a factor in a child-custody case.
A report he issued last year, “Stranded at the Altar,” details how the LGBT rights movement has stalled thanks to all the bills that he said have been blocked by the Senate. But the decisions of the majority have been an especially bitter pill for Hoylman since the murderous rampage in Orlando.
The killer, Omar Mateen, who, according to reports, was sexually interested in men himself and a regular at the gay nightclub Pulse, used a legally bought gun to open fire there, while pledging his allegiance to ISIS.
(Another bill Hoylman authored would prevent a defendant and plaintiff being in the same protected group from being admissible as evidence in crime cases.)
“Legislation as ‘minor’ as a bill making technical corrections to the Domestic Relations Law in the wake of marriage equality, to as ‘major’ as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) has been blocked from consideration, even after the Assembly routinely passes them,” Hoylman said in last year’s report.
It went on to say how Governor Andrew Cuomo, annoyed by the legislature’s inaction on GENDA (authored by Senator Daniel Squadron), said his office would develop regulations interpreting the Human Rights Law to include gender identity.
Additionally, while no bills were passed to protect gay and transgender New Yorkers in the past five years, Hoylman’s report notes that bills that did get passed in 2015 alone included 19 related to distinctive license plates, 32 related to hunting, trapping and fishing and 33 that affect specific individuals for things like pension credits.