By Sabina Mollot
Two years ago, State Senator Brad Hoylman told Town & Village that any LGBT-related legislation seemed to be blacklisted in Albany to the point where any bill with the term “LGBT” in it would be “dead on arrival.”
Since then, basically nothing has changed with the most recent significant LGBT-related legislation being the marriage equality act in 2011 that was championed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In 2016, Hoylman did a study on the lack of action taken in the state capital since then, titled “Stranded at the Altar.” The fact that the Independent Democratic Conference has dissolved hasn’t changed anything, voting dynamic-wise, and Hoylman, as he has before, is laying the blame solely on his chamber’s Republican majority. Hoylman is the only openly gay state senator.
Additionally, while Cuomo is fighting a high-profile battle against a lesbian primary challenger, Hoylman said he wasn’t sure the governor could strong-arm the bills into law through executive order.
“It could be reversed,” said Hoylman, adding, “I think he’d doing everything he can in his power. He’s tried to make it easier for transgender people and trying to eliminate state funding for conversion therapy.”
Shortly before the end of the legislative session this week, Hoylman gave Town & Village a roundup of the legislation that’s been collecting dust. This is largely due to their being blocked from getting a hearing by the Senate’s Republican majority, even though many have the Assembly’s support.
“I think the Republicans have been consistent since 2011,” he said. “They’re not budging on LGBT issues.”
Asked what would change things in favor of LGBT interests, Hoylman’s answer wasn’t surprising, and that’s to flip the Senate, and he also noted that former IDC members are facing primary challenges.
Stalled or blocked bills, nearly all sponsored by Hoylman, are listed below:
Make surrogacy legal
Hoylman, a father to two daughters he and his husband David Sigal had through a surrogate, is the author of a bill to legalize surrogacy contracts in New York.
Because it’s not currently legal here, “I went to California,” said Hoylman. “I form shopped and California has the best protections.”
He added, “We should have the best surrogacy laws, because we have the best fertility companies. This is a consumer protection issue at the end of the day.”
The Child-Parent Security Act would also establish a child’s legal relationship with his or her parents if born via in-vitro fertilization or gestational surrogacy.
End the ‘gay panic’ defense
Another of Hoylman’s bills would stop “gay panic” or “trans panic” (over someone being hit on by a member of the aforementioned groups) from being used an excuse for certain violent crimes. Cuomo had included the ban in the 2018/2019 executive budget proposal, though it didn’t end up in the final budget.
Restoring benefits for gay veterans
Hoylman’s “Restoration of Honor Act” would restore state benefits to veterans who were discharged other than honorably solely as a result of the former federal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.
Improve HIV-related services
Hoylman also wants to make it mandatory for insurers to cover pre-exposure and post-exposure medication to prevent HIV infections. Another Hoylman bill would create an HIV/AIDS services portal with a single point of access to benefits and services in each local Department of Social Services.
Create LGBT New Yorker database
Hoylman hopes to have demographic information on sexual orientation and gender identity collected by state agencies.
Improve access to government contracts
Hoylman’s “New York State Supplier Diversity Act” would establish a new Division of Supplier Diversity within the Office of General Services. The purpose would be to encourage greater diversity in New York’s procurement process by ensuring equal access to contracting opportunities for certified LGBT, disability, and veteran-owned small businesses.
Secure rights for married same-sex couples
Another bill, which has passed the Assembly since 2013, would update the Marriage Equality Act, changing words like “husband and wife” to “spouses.”
Ban “conversion” therapy on LGBT minors
This one of Hoylman’s bills was passed by the Higher Education Committee in Senate, but got sent to another committee on mental health, where it was stalled.
Improve services for LGBT youths
This bill would require LGBT-specific training for runaway and homeless youth facility employees.
Help hate crime prosecution
“The Michael Sandy Act” would not allow the fact that a defendant and victim belong to the same protected category to be admissible in hate crime cases.
An example of this is how the Pulse nightclub shooter was reportedly sexually interested in other men.
Create potty parity for parents
Hoylman’s legislation would require bathrooms accessible to the public to have changing tables for parents of either gender.
Prevent discrimination against transgendered people
Hoylman’s Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or expression and includes violent crimes committed based on the victim’s gender identity. Cuomo has issued an executive order to implement parts of GENDA and it has passed the Assembly for the past decade.
During the 2018 legislative session, Hoylman filed a Motion for Committee Consideration to force a committee vote on the bill, but it was defeated in the Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee with a 4-5 party-line vote.
Another bill would require school districts to develop policies and procedures regarding the treatment of transgender and gender non-conforming students, while another would develop lessons in schools about the historic treatment of LGBT individuals.
The Modern Family Birth Certificate Act would give parents the option of appearing on their children’s birth certificates as either “father,” “mother” or “parent.” Another one of Hoylman’s bills would prevent a parent’s gender reassignment from being a factor in making a determination in a child custody case.
A piece of legislation sponsored by Jesse Hamilton would allow New Yorkers who don’t identify as male or female to write “x” as a gender designation on driver’s licenses. Another Hoylman bill would establish a bill of rights for LGBT people staying in nursing homes, aimed at fighting discrimination.
Establish Edie Windsor Day
Hoylman also hopes to recognize LGBT activist Edie Windsor with a holiday in New York, for her work that paved the way for same-sex marriage.