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New York State Laws on Gender and Sexual Minorities 

Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA)


In New York State, SONDA protects individuals from being discriminated against on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation in housing, employment, access to public accommodations and credit.  The only exceptions to the rule are “religious or denominational institution” or “organization operated for charitable or educational purposes."  This law protects everyone from discrimination, including those who identify as transgender.  SONDA applies when a transgender person is discriminated against based on his or her actual or perceived sexual orientation, but does not protect Transgender individuals from discrimination because of their status.


Amendment to the City and State Human Rights Laws provides that employees can sue their employers for sexual harassment, even if they are the only employee.  In other words, to bring a sexual harassment case under the New York City and State Human Rights Laws, the employer does not need to have four employees to be covered (which was the previous requirement), but can be a single employee to bring a claim against their employer.  Although there are no reported decisions on whether this law covers same-sex harassment, we believe a reasonable interpretation of this law would include this claim. 

Gender Expression Non-discriminiation Act (GENDA)

In January of 2019, New York State passed the Gender Expression Non-discrimination Act (GENDA), prohibiting discrimination against transgender persons in employment, housing, public accommodations, education and credit. The newly enacted law explicitly protect transgender and gender non-conforming individuals from discrimination by adding gender identity and expression as protected classes under New York State's existing human rights law.


The Empire State Pride Agenda estimates 75% of transgender New Yorkers have experienced harassment on the job and 20 percent have lost their job because they are transgender.  78% of New Yorkers support passing a law that provides transgender people with protections from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and other areas of everyday life.


GELC strongly supported the passage of GENDA, and continues to work to help ensure that no individual will be denied equal rights and protections under the law because they are transgender. 




New York State Human Rights Law

​In 2002, SONDA amended the New York State Human Rights to include "sexual orientaiton" as one of the specifically protected statuses to be free from discrimination.  SONDA also added the term to the Civil Rights Law and the Education Law.

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The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA)

GENDA makes clear that gender identity and gender expression are protected characteristics under New York State’s anti-discrimination laws, alongside other categories including sexual orientation. 

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