Hochul approves inclusive ballot bill, trans equity fund

Governor Kathy Hochul with the New Pride Agenda team and others on Pride Sunday in New York.
Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Governor Kathy Hochul marked Pride Sunday in New York City by signing a pair of bills steering resources to the state’s trans community and establishing the right of non-binary individuals to run for party positions.

The hard-fought Lorena Borjas Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund — named after a beloved trans leader who passed away in 2020 — brings funding to organizations serving trans and non-binary folks at a time when advocates have stressed that existing allocations have often failed to reach the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ community. California was the first state to implement such a fund — but that state managed to secure significantly more money.

The New York State Legislature secured $1 million for the fund, while the state’s 2023 budget will include another $2 million dedicated to trans and non-binary folks in the state, according to the governor’s office.

The bill signing represented a key step forward for advocates who held numerous demonstrations calling on the state to establish the fund.

“Our goal in advocating for this fund has always been to foster new and emerging trans leaders, and this fund will do just that,” said Elisa Crespo, who is the executive director of the New Pride Agenda — one of the leading groups fighting for the bill. “More importantly, for the first time in history, trans New Yorkers will be recognized in the state budget and that deserves to be celebrated. We thank Governor Hochul for signing this bill into law.”

The other bill signed into law on the same day was the Inclusive Ballot Act, which removes the binary requirement for state party candidates to select “male” or “female” when running for county committee, district leader, or state committee member. Émilia Decaudin, a Queens-based Democratic district leader and state committee member who helped write the bill, welcomed the new law.

Émilia Decaudin at the 2020 Gay City News Impact Awards.Donna Aceto

“For decades, non-binary New Yorkers have been legally excluded from the most fundamental form of political participation in our state,” Decaudin said. “With the signing of the Gender Inclusive Ballot Act into law, that ends today.”

Decaudin added: “This is only one in many steps towards real, material equality for our community, and I look forward to continuing to work my hardest towards that goal.”

As she signed the bills into law, Hochul pointed to the transphobia permeating other State Legislatures around the country — where trans youth have been disproportionately impacted by legislative attacks.

“New York is the birthplace of the LGBTQ+ rights movement and has always been the leader in advancing equality and justice for LGBTQ+ Americans, but elected officials in other states are using their powers to take those rights away,” Governor Hochul said. “Today, I am proud to sign legislation that further advances equality and equity for the LGBTQ+ community. By establishing funds and addressing inequities experienced by gender non-conforming and non-binary New Yorkers, we can ensure that our state truly is a safe and affirming place for everyone and that the voices of all are heard.”