Bills Passed, LGBTQ Community Rights Protected

By Jennifer L. Warren

NEWBURGH – Last Wednesday was a happy one for many in the City of Newburgh…as well as throughout New York State.

Inside the City’s LGBTQ Center, Senator James Skoufis (D-39) officially announced the recent passage of two New York State bills: The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and a ban on gay conversion therapy. The former-the first bill out of any committee this new year- prohibits discrimination, such as housing and all sections of law in New York, based on gender identity or expression, including those that fall under hate crimes; while the latter bill legally denies the practice of gay Conversion Therapy, aimed at trying to make a homosexual “normal.” With a conversion therapist working out of Newburgh, this bill took on some added relevance.

Passed last Tuesday, both bills are expected to be signed into law by the governor in the next week according to Skoufis, who pointed out further reasons for celebration during his announcement.

“Not one LGBTQ bill has moved forward in New York State until now,” said a smiling Skoufis, who has worked hard to contribute to the two recently passed bills in Albany. “This all happened on just the second day of activity in the State Senate.” He added about the banning of Conversion Therapy, “Make no mistake about it: this is child abuse; anyone who has any understanding about how humans work knows you can’t make someone not gay.” Skoufis continued, “Now, young boys and girls will be treated with respect and no longer counseled about this, as this practice will come to an end in New York State.”

Also on hand at the Center were several of its members from the local transgender community, including Rae Leiner, its Executive Director and Co-Founder, and like Skoufis, was overjoyed about the historic passage of these two critical bills and how they add both legal protection and respect.

“We are very happy about these laws happening,” said Leiner. “Conversion Therapy is an arcane, inhumane practice; we don’t choose who we love or what body we were born into; however people do choose to hate.”

Leiner continued by expressing how all at the Center and beyond are looking forward to how the “legislation plays out” as well as “working with our elected officials with its implementation.”

One of those politicians alluded to, Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson (D-104), was present Wednesday, lending his support.

“I am so pleased we were able to get this done so quickly,” said Jacobson, who also discussed the next focus: the passage of the Reproductive Health Act. “I was shocked when I first found out that Conversion Therapy was still in existence, and I now look forward to working with James (Skoufis) as well as the LGBTQ community here, as we go forward.”

Another member of the City of Newburgh’s LGBT Group, Phoenix Gayle, its Core Organizer and local Transactivist, also spoke.

“I am a black transwoman in America, and I am so proud and happy, I can no longer be discriminated against,” affirmed Gayle. “I don’t think any of us were born with hate; it’s taught.”

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