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Cuomo signs legislation repealing 'walking while trans' ban

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Wed, Feb 3rd 2021 10:00 am

Legislation repeals section of law intended to prohibit loitering for purpose of engaging in prostitution, but instead has led to discriminatory enforcement of transgender and cisgender women of color

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday signed legislation (S.2253/A.654) repealing portions of a law – known as the “walking while trans” ban – that his camp said led to arbitrary and discriminatory policing of transgender women.

A press release said, “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.”

Cuomo said, "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. 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."

Transgender rights advocate Melissa Sklarz 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 Gov. Cuomo. Thank you to the governor, the Senate, the Assembly, Sen. Brad Hoylman, (Assembly member) 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."

Make the Road New York member Norma Ureiro, 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 Gov. 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."

Executive Director of Black Trans News TS Candii 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 nonbinary 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 Sen. Holyman, Assembly member Paulin and all of our legislative advocates for their advocacy. We also applaud Gov. 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."

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said, "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. 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."

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