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City of Syracuse adopts transgender rights law

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: City of Syracuse adopts transgender rights law
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The Syracuse Common Council has given its approval to a new local law banning discrimination against transgender people. YNN's Bill Carey says its added pressure for the State of New York to adopt similar legislation.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – “Discrimination isn't always about age or skin color or sexual orientation. A lot of times, it's because someone doesn't match up to someone else's version of how a man or a woman should be,” said Syracuse Common Councilor Jean Kessner.

Syracuse common councilors say they were simply catching up with action already taken by a number of other New York cities: Enacting laws that protect those who were not covered by previous legislation outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation. This time, the question is the rights of the transgendered.

“Currently, it is still legal to fire somebody in the City of Syracuse based on they're being transgender, as well as to deny them housing or public accommodation as well,” said Rob Pusch of the Transgender Alliance.

“People shouldn't be discriminated against based on who they are and how they express their gender,” said Barrie Gewanter of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

While all the members of the council voiced support for the concept of the bill, in the end, the vote for the measure was not unanimous.

Councilor Khalid Bey complained he would have voted for the bill if there had been protections written in regarding public restrooms. He says there need to be clear guidelines to protect those using the rooms.

Bey said, “ Even people who were compassionate and/or sympathetic to the issue still expressed a concern about persons who were not actually transsexual coming into the restrooms.”

Despite Bey's objection, the vote in favor was seven to one.

Members of the Transgender Alliance are hoping adding another city to the list of those with anti-discrimination legislation might finally prod the state legislature to act on a statewide bill.

“It's passed the Assembly five times and it's stuck in the Senate where it can't get out of committee. And that's the bill, I think, that would be of most value to us,” said Mallory Livingston of the Transgender Alliance.

Councilors likened the bill to landmark civil rights legislation of the past.

Kessner said, “ In the United States, it is not illegal to be different. To express yourself as an individual in your own unique way.”

They say it's a step that is long overdue.

Mayor Stephanie Miner, calling Syracuse a city that will not tolerate discrimination, says she will "proudly" sign the new legislation into law.

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