JAMESTOWN – The New York State Legislation will vote Tuesday on a series of bills, including a piece of legislation called GENDA, which deals with transgender rights.
WNYNewsNow interviewed former Jamestown City Council President and longtime gay rights activist Greg Rabb Monday afternoon. Rabb said GENDA would amend New York State’s human rights law so that the transgender community would become a protected class. Rabb said this change would be crucial in cases involving discrimination.
“If someone were to discriminate against you because you’re transgender, you would have the ability to go to the New York State Human Rights Commission and/or file a suit claiming damages due to the damages to discrimination to employement, mortgaes, everything you can think of that most of us in this state take for granted,” Rabb said. “What’s been happening is that transgender individuals, as of today, continue to be discriminated against.”
“(GENDA) would also send a very strong signal that New York State is for everyone. Right now, if you’re gay, like myself, I’m protected, or if you’re lesbian, or black, or a Christian, you’re protected. If you’re transgender, at this point, those folks are out there being discriminated, and they don’t have legal recourse.”
Rabb said his activism for gay rights began 40 years ago when he was in his 20s. Rabb explained that he “thought it was wrong” that he didn’t have protection as a gay man.
“We worked hard to make sure gay and lesbian people were protected classes, and that happened way back when Governor (George) Patacki was in office,” Rabb said. “Sadly, the transgender community was left behind, although a promise had been made by the community that we’d come back and get you. Well, it’s taken a long time.”
Rabb explained how he teaches an LGBTQ class at Buffalo State, and he’s made numerous transgender friends as a teacher. His friendships have lead to him focusing on obtaining trans rights.
“I’ve been a victim of discrimination becasue of my sexual orientation,” Rabb said. “I know what it feels like, and I’m hoping this is going to happen tomorrow, and if it does, I’m going to be one of the happiest people. The sad part is that it’s taken us this long.”
In a recent personal Facebook post, Rabb has urged people to call State Senator Cathy Young and State Assemblyman Andy Goodell about their concerns. Rabb said he, himself, has visited Young and Goodell to discuss his concerns.
When asked whether he’d be making a push with the Federal Government to extend rights for transgenders nationwide, Rabb said he hasn’t thought about making such efforts.
“I’m one of those people who’s very strategic. I don’t spend a lot of time doing stuff that I think isn’t going to have traction,” Rabb said. “I knew, in New York State, this would eventually happen so I just kept working at it and working at it.”
WNYNewsNow has reached out for comment from Goodell and Young’s offices.
Officials say they are about 1.4 million openly transgender people, or 0.6 percent of the population, in the United States.