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New York passes pro-homosexual measure to curb discrimination

ALBANY, N.Y. (BP)–New York became the 13th state to include homosexuals in its civil rights laws Dec. 17 when Gov. George E. Pataki signed into law a bill meant to protect homosexuals from discrimination in housing, employment, credit and public accommodations, The New York Times reported Dec. 18.

“It’s not upstate, downstate, Republican, Democrat, black, white, straight, gay,” Pataki said after signing the bill. “We are one New York and I think the passage of this bill is another important step in the confirmation of that.”

The bill essentially adds only two words, “sexual orientation,” to existing anti-discrimination laws, but those two words could put New York on par with states such as Vermont, which allows same-sex civil unions, and Hawaii, which has a strong domestic partnership law.

Pataki signed the bill just hours after the Republican-led Senate voted 34-26 in favor of the legislation. Thirteen of 36 Republicans and 21 of 24 Democrats voted for the bill, according to The Times.

Apparently the Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, was strongly influenced by New York’s largest gay rights group, the Empire State Pride Agenda. Bruno had kept the issue from a floor vote for eight years, The Times said, but helped push it through this time.

“Maybe I have become more enlightened,” Bruno said just before the vote. “But over the years I have felt that the present nondiscrimination laws in this state were more than adequate.” He went on to say that the fact that there are “such strong feelings out there that this is necessary” convinced him otherwise.

Matt Foreman, the executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, made a last minute appeal in favor of the legislation, according to The Times.

“We hope to get the bill signed very quickly and extend rights to hundreds of thousands of lesbian, gay and bisexual New Yorkers upstate,” he said. “And more important, it is the foundation upon which we can finally get moving on the rest of our long-stalled agenda, which includes recognition of our relationships, ending unfair taxation, making our schools safe for young gay and lesbian people, and transgendered people.”

An amendment was voted down in the Senate, however, to include “gender identity and expression” in the bill, although The Times reported that some lawyers believe the legislation will be interpreted as encompassing “transgendered” individuals.

The Empire State Pride Agenda had garnered Republican support by endorsing Pataki, The Times said.

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