A bright day has begun for the LGBTQ community in New York as a 50-year-old criminal law practice that wrongly persecuted them for simply being themselves is finally coming to an end. At the beginning of February 2021, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation (S.2253/A.654) repealing portions of a law known as the 'Walking While Trans' ban.
The law, which was brought into effect in the 1970s as a way to prevent loitering for purpose of prostitution has been used for decades as a discriminatory and arbitrary method of policing transgender and cisgender women - many of whom were simply walking down the street.
This history-making event has been years in the making and motions to change the law have been in the works for some time. According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, in 2019 alone, 91% of those arrested under this specific statute were Black or Latinx, and over 80% of them identified as women. These staggering statistics reflected the highly racist and discriminatory nature of some of the laws still in New York State.
Many district attorneys had already put unofficial prohibitions on the “Walking While Trans” ban due to its discriminatory nature, especially towards transgender women of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ youth. Brooklyn's District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has already announced that he will be removing all existing bench warrants and their charges from the borough. It is expected that more announcements will be made in relation to the repeal by Governor Cuomo.
Attorneys, politicians, and LGBTQ advocates have claimed over the last decade that this law resulted in discrimination by law enforcement. Some of these representatives attended the signing of legislation to ensure its passing. Among them were Senator Hoylman; Assemblymember Amy Paulin; Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David; Richard Saenz, Senior Attorney, Criminal Justice & Police Misconduct Strategist, Lambda Legal; and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.