Following state’s lead, Ithaca becomes a sanctuary city for gender-affirming care

Downtown Ithaca, known as the Ithaca Commons, during winter.
Downtown Ithaca, known as the Ithaca Commons, during winter.
Wikimedia Commons/Kenneth C. Zirkel

The City of Ithaca in the upstate Finger Lakes region has voted to become a sanctuary city, echoing New York State’s broader effort to protect trans individuals in the midst of widespread legislation in other states targeting the trans community.

The city law vows to protect gender-affirming and mental health care and stipulates that the city cannot cooperate with out-of-state law enforcement regarding cases involving gender-affirming care, according to the Ithaca Voice, a non-profit publication. The law further stresses that it is against the law to discriminate against individuals on the basis of gender identity. No lawmakers opposed the move, according to the Ithaca Voice. 

The move was symbolic since the State Legislature already voted for New York to become a sanctuary state earlier this year and Governor Kathy Hochul signed that bill into law on Pride Sunday in June. Still, Ithaca’s vote sent an affirming message to the community and added another layer of protection to the city regardless of what happens at the state level. If the state does away with its policy, Ithaca would downgrade the priority level of enforcement of any laws against gender-affirming healthcare to the “lowest priority.”

“We should not take the civil liberties and protections people have fought, organized and died for for granted,” Alderperson Jorge DeFendini of Ithaca’s Common Council said, according to the Ithaca Voice. “Simply because something is state or federal law, that doesn’t mean something can’t be changed, and we must remain vigilant.”

The move also further advanced Ithaca’s long history of standing out as one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities in the state. Most recently, Ithaca College was one of three colleges or universities listed on Campus Pride’s annual report card showing the most LGBTQ-friendly colleges in the nation.