The campaign to repeal a discriminatory loitering law that has been used by police to stop and arrest transgender women of color for years has taken yet another major step forward with crucial bipartisan support in the State Assembly.
Assemblymember Clifford Crouch, who is the longest-serving Republican in the lower house and represents the upstate counties of Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Otsego, has signed on to a bill that now has 75 co-sponsors in the State Assembly and 36 in the State Senate.
The Walking While Trans coalition, which has spearheaded the statewide effort to repeal the law, touted Crouch’s co-sponsorship in a tweet on August 21 and again asked Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to bring the bill to a vote.
The coalition issued a follow-up tweet asking for support from Assemblymembers Nily Rozic and Clyde Vanel of Queens, Erik M. Dilan of Brooklyn, and Michael Benedetto of the Bronx, as well as State Senators Monica R. Martinez of Long Island and James Skoufis, who represents upstate suburbs west of the Hudson River.
A spokesperson for Crouch said he is on vacation with family in a location with limited cell service. He declined comment for this story.
It has been a long slog for advocates who hoped to see some movement on the legislation after it stalled down the stretch last year once it passed the Assembly Codes Committee. It has yet to clear the Codes Committee in the upper chamber.
Since then, however, advocates have attracted even more support from lawmakers and community groups hailing from across the state. In June, numerous organizations from across the state penned a letter to leaders in Albany asking them to include the legislation in a package of criminal justice reform bills that were under consideration.
That same month, the State Senate clinched the necessary votes for the bill’s passage when there were 32 lawmakers who signed on in the upper chamber. The bill, led by out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan and Assemblymember Amy Paulin of Westcheter, has continued to pick up steam throughout the summer.
In a recent interview with Gay City News, Hoylman expressed confidence that lawmakers would eventually move on the bill.
“I’ve gathered a very strong number of co-sponsors, I have support from the Democratic caucus, and I think it’s a matter of when we can get it to the floor, not if,” Hoylman said.
He added, “Those are decisions made by the [Senate majority] leader and I will continue to advocate for the important bill.”
The sense of urgency by advocates pushing for the repeal is backed up by staggering statistics. A whopping 91 percent of individuals arrested under the loitering law in 2018 were Black or Latinx and 80 percent were women, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. During that same year there was a major spike — 120 percent — in arrests under the law.
Some areas have taken their own steps to scale back the discriminatory practice. After a lawsuit exposing the NYPD’s discriminatory overpolicing of sex workers led to a settlement last year, the police department was forced to revised its patrol guide to stop targeting individuals on the basis of “gender identity, clothing, and location.”
The Legal Aid Society, which provides legal help to low-income New Yorkers, said last year they had clients who were locked up for wearing a “short dress” or “a skirt and high heels.” Others were arrested when they were just standing outside or walking from a grocery store to their home.
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