Cuomo Unveils Monument, Trans Protections

The LGBT Memorial unveiled on June 22 in Hudson River Park. | DONNA ACETO

On the morning of Sunday, June 24, before he marched in the annual LGBTQ Pride Parade in Manhattan, Governor Andrew Cuomo made two stops — in the West Village and in Chelsea — to unveil a memorial to LGBTQ victims of violence and hatred and to announce strengthened health and nondiscrimination protections for the state’s LGBTQ community.

At 10 a.m. that morning, the governor was in Hudson River Park at West 12th Street to publicly present the LGBT Memorial, which he called for on June 26, 2016, two weeks after a deadly gun attack took the lives of 49 people at Pulse, a Latinx LGBTQ club in Orlando, Florida. Cuomo’s directive at that time called for a memorial to “stand as an international symbol against ignorance, hate, bigotry, and gun violence.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo at the Memorial unveiling. | DONNA ACETO

The Memorial, designed by artist Anthony Goicolea, consists of boulders, some bisected by laminated glass that acts as prisms to create subtle rainbow patterns on the surrounding lawn within the park. With the aid of professional art and architecture consultants, the Goicolea design was chosen last year by the governor from a list of three recommendations — culled from 40 entries — made by 10 LGBTQ community commissioners the governor appointed.

Hours before marching in parade, governor responds to Trump health care rollbacks

An inscription on the Memorial quotes the late poet and writer Audre Lorde. | DONNA ACETO

Later in the morning, Cuomo, at a Pride breakfast at the Dream Downtown Hotel on West 16th Street, announced a series of measures that he explained would provide protections for transgender health care access in anticipation of rollbacks to former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act that the Trump administration has put forward.

The Trump administration has announced plans to repeal language in the regulations under which the ACA was implemented that make clear that the law’s sex nondiscrimination provisions include protections based on gender identity. According to a release from the governor’s office, that change would put more than 90,000 transgender New Yorkers at risk for discrimination in accessing health care.

Transgender New Yorkers are not protected by statute from nondiscrimination in the state because of Republican intransigence in the State Senate, but in late 2015 Cuomo directed the Division of Human Rights (DHR) to adopt regulations recognizing sex nondiscrimination provisions of the Human Rights Law to protect individuals from discrimination based on their gender identity. Those regulations, however, did not specifically apply to policy oversight under the purview of the State Health Department.

The governor’s action will lead to Health Department regulations requiring all hospitals to explicitly prohibit discrimination against transgender patients, strengthening the protections already provided under the 2015 DHR changes. The State Department of Financial Services (DFS) will also broaden the protections given transgender New Yorkers in accessing health insurance. Last year, that department made clear that the existing protections provided under the federal ACA would be preserved in the state regardless of any action taken by the Trump administration. The DFS will now broaden the scope of those protections.

The DHR has also issued a public fact sheet spelling out the nondiscrimination protections transgender New Yorkers have enjoyed since Cuomo first acted in 2015.

Judith Kasen-Windsor, the surviving spouse of Edie Windsor, Hetrick-Martin Institute CEO Thomas Krever, longtime trans activist Melissa Sklarz, who is seeking a State Assembly seat in Queens, and artist Anthony Goicolea, the memorial’s designer. | DONNA ACETO

In a written statement, the governor said, “New York was founded upon the principles of fairness and equality and we won’t stand idly by while Washington seeks to claw back hard-earned rights and protections. For every step the Trump administration takes backwards, New York will take two steps forward, and these regulations will guarantee and expand protections for transgender New Yorkers to help ensure every resident has equal access to health care.”

Broadway actor and singer Billy Porter at the Memorial opening. | DONNA ACETO

Kiara St. James, executive director of the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, said, “This latest action ensures that basic and critical health care services will be provided to everyone, regardless of gender identity. I commend Governor Cuomo for proposing regulations that will deter intolerable and discriminatory business practices by insurance companies in the Empire State.”

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said, “These measures are an important step to ensure that all New Yorkers can access the health care they need, regardless of gender identity. As the Trump administration continues its attack on the dignity and health of trans people, New York is once again stepping up, as it must, to protect all New Yorkers.”