Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Poll: New Yorkers overwhelmingly support GENDA

We released a poll today (conducted by Global Strategy Group) that finds that 78 percent of registered New York voters support passing a bill that protects transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing, education and other areas of everyday life.

This is important for several reasons. First, in the five years that the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) has been around, legislators have never brought it to a floor vote in either chamber of the New York State Legislature. The most plausible reason for this is that lawmakers believe the issue to be controversial among their constituents—that, by acting to end discrimination against a marginalized group of people, they would somehow come under fire from the people who elect them to office.

This poll overwhelmingly dismisses that notion in a couple of ways. The first is the most direct: the poll states that for 88 percent of New York voters it either makes no difference in their vote or makes it more likely that they would vote for a state senator or assemblymember who voted to pass GENDA. Only nine percent said that they would actually be less likely to vote for their assemblymember/senator if that person voted to pass GENDA.

To further reinforce this, the poll found that 71 percent believed that there was already a law in place that outlawed this type of discrimination. This is a non-issue for voters and the state legislature should seriously take note of this.

Second, the political establishment in Albany often believes that a bill like GENDA has a natural base of support among voters of one party - the Democrats - more than the other - the Republicans. This means GENDA would be a one-house bill because, while Democrats may support it, the Republican-controlled Senate would not act on a bill that wouldn’t intuitively be popular with its core constituency.

This poll turns that assumption on its head. While the findings confirm that the vast majority of Democrats do support the passage of GENDA (77 percent), it also found that a clear majority of New York Republicans also favor outlawing discrimination against trans people (67 percent), further reinforcing the notion that New York Republicans are more libertarian than socially conservative and often have a “live and let live” mindset towards their fellow citizens. There is no reason, therefore, that GENDA should not be taken up and passed in both houses during this legislative session. We already know that Gov. Spitzer would sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.

And finally, party leadership from both sides of the aisle may think that acting on this bill during an election year might do damage to some of their marginal members in parts of the state that are traditionally more conservative than New York City. Again, the findings of this poll prove that notion to be false. Support in New York City certainly is strong (80 percent), but the strongest support came from the NYC suburbs, where 82 percent of likely voters believe that discrimination based on gender expression and identity should be outlawed. Additionally—and perhaps most significantly—74 percent of upstate voters support passing GENDA.

The time for delay is over. New York lags behind the 13 states that have already passed a bill like GENDA--states like New Jersey, Iowa, Illinois and Colorado--and New York is also behind the curve when compared to the dozens of Fortune 500 firms that have enacted policies that forbid trans discrimination—including New York-based companies like Kodak in Western New York, PepsiCo in the Hudson Valley, TimeWarner and American Express downstate and Corning in the Southern Tier.

It’s time to do what the vast majority of New Yorkers believe is the right thing to do: pass GENDA in 2008.

Read the Pride Agenda press release here
See where members of the New York State Legislature stand on GENDA here
See a PDF of the poll here

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