Queens lawmakers’ LGBTQ protection bills get signed into law

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed two bills into law at the LGBT Community Center, including one introduced by Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas. (Photo credit: Don Pollard/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed bills sponsored by Jackson Heights Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas and state Senator Jessica Ramos that require utility, water works and telephone companies to allow customers to use their preferred names and pronouns as well as to protect survivors of trafficking.

The bills were signed Friday, Nov. 12, during National Transgender Awareness Week.

According to González-Rojas’ office, 800,000 adults in New York are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and about 78,600 identify as transgender. Since the name changing process is costly and time-consuming, only 30% of people legally change their name. 

González-Rojas said that this legislation comes at an important time when hate crimes toward transgender people has increased. 

“At a time when we are witnessing a record number of murders of trans people, particularly trans women, and of anti-LGBT pieces of legislation being introduced and passed in other states across the nation, New York must take leadership and stand against hate. I’m proud to have sponsored legislation which will ensure that transgender people are respected by utility corporations as they do business in our state,” González-Rojas said.

State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Jessica González-Roajs. (Photo credit Don Pollard/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)

According to an NYPD crime statistics report, hate crimes have increased by 98% this year. Hate crimes against LGBTQ people increased by 188%, with 23 hate crimes reported this year compared to eight in 2020.

The legislation would help prevent the risk of transgender people being found by a possibly abusive family member or partner, reducing the risk of harassment. 

“This trans awareness week let us move from awareness to action. To our trans siblings, please know that you have an ally in me because you matter,” González-Rojas said. “Trans lives matter.”

The START Act, introduced by Ramos, relates to vacating convictions for offenses committed due to being a survivor of sex trafficking, labor trafficking and compelling prostitution. The law builds on a law passed in 2010 in New York allowing victims of human trafficking to vacate prostitution-related criminal convictions that were directly tied to their victimization.

“During National Transgender Awareness week, the notion of building visibility around the structural challenges experienced by trans and gender-nonconforming New Yorkers has to be more than a gesture. We have to legislate in a way that honors and protects their rights as members of our community,” Ramos said. “The START Act gives survivors of trafficking the fresh start they deserve — lessening the barriers to employment, improving access to appropriate immigration legal remedies, and helping break cycles of trauma for thousands of survivors across our state.”

Hochul said these laws show that New York stands with LGBTQ+ people.

“As we witness attacks on LGBTQ+ rights and protections around the country, New York is once again declaring that we are a state for all — one where we don’t needlessly criminalize victims and where our trans, gender non-binary and gender non-conforming communities are affirmed,” Hochul said. “My administration is committed to equality and safety for everyone and New York is able to lead the way because of the work of our tireless advocates and our partners in the Legislature. Together we will continue to build a state that is welcoming to all.”

Additional reporting by Angélica Acevedo.

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