SONDA Passes — without Trans Inclusion

On December 17 the New
York State Senate voted 34-
26 to adopt a bill that adds
“sexual orientation” to the list of
protected categories in the state
human rights law. An effort by out
gay Senator Tom Duane to include
an amendment adding “gender
identity” to the bill failed.
First introduced in 1971,
and passed repeatedly in the
Democratic-dominated State
Assembly since 1993, the Sexual
Orientation Non-Discrimination
Act (SONDA) languished as the
Republican-controlled Senate
refused to allow it to come to the
floor. This year, Governor George
Pataki pushed the Senate to vote on the law as part of a
campaign promise he made to the gay lobbying group,
the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA), which endorsed
the Republican governor’s re-election in exchange. Even
Senate Majority leader Joseph Bruno cast an “aye” vote
after opposing the bill vigorously for years, defying the
intense lobbying against SONDA by Roman Catholic
bishops and state Conservative Party leaders right up to
the last minute. Duane’s own vote was up in the air until
days before the question was called as he tried to hold
out for transgender inclusion. ESPA activists publicly
denounced Duane for “jeopardizing” SONDA’s passage.