Governor Kathy Hochul makes an announcement and signs two bills into law at the LGBT Community Center. (Don Pollard – Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)

Governor Hochul: “There are leaders of the LGBTQ community who care so passionately that whatever they’ve had to deal with in their own life, they won’t just internalize that and deal with it themselves. They’ll say, I know there’s a problem out there and I want to help solve it for others.”

Earlier today at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan, Governor Kathy Hochulsigned legislation aimed at expanding protections for the LGBTQ+ community and those who have been victims of sex trafficking.

A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:

“You all got so quiet. This is a celebration, need I remind you. We know how to celebrate here in New York. First of all, happy Transgender Awareness Week. Let’s get that out there. To celebrate everyone. And to know that this is the epicenter of all causes great and good. Everything worth fighting for, starts in the state of New York. And we’re going to continue the journey, never rest on our laurels, but I believe and know this is a huge point of pride for all of us. That New York City, Stonewall, is truly known globally as the epicenter of the LGBTQ movement. And that is something I personally am very proud of as well.

Glennda, I have been here many times and I walked through the doors here and I just feel this sense of people belonging. People feel that this is a place that can be respected and valued. Feelings that they may not have when they’re sometimes in their homes or in their schools and their place of work. And that pains me as the leader of this state. But to know that there is an oasis they can come to, to feel those values, that all of us crave, respect, and dignity. I thank you for your leadership here. I know as a tough time through this pandemic, but you never gave up. And you continue fighting for the members of this community. And I know they appreciate it, as do I, so, Glennda, thank you.

I do want to acknowledge some of the amazing elected officials we have here and to thank them for also never giving up the fight and sometimes it feels the headwinds are against you. And you just feel like, you know, how long is this going to take? Some of these ideas have been percolating for such a long time. I think about the fight for gender. Why would that have taken a literally a decade or more, you know? Brad Hoylman, you lived and breathed this. I know Deborah Glick was there fighting the good fight and you just never, ever gave up. And so many other people that came forward. 

I want to thank them. Senator Hoylman. Assemblymember Dick Gottfried, the great fighter who’s one of the sponsors of the bill today. Jessica Gonzales-Rojas, Assemblymember. Jessica Ramos, our state Senator. Deborah Glick whose district we’re in. Thank you very much also. I, also look forward to working with all the council members elect who are here as well as Jimmy Van Bramer who is here as well.

All of you are going to create a very dynamic City Council. I want to tell you, I am so excited. About the fact that it is the most diverse city council in the history of the city. There are finally more women as well. I was part of an effort to see if we could go from having 11 women in the City Council to possibly even 21, how audacious was that? And we now have 31. So I think this is a whole new era of leadership. 

I look forward to working with the new Mayor. And I will repeat this again, because it is a headline worth repeating that the era of conflict is over, that a new era of collaboration has begun. Now the second I have a chance to welcome new Mayor Eric Adams, into his position to work with the city council, that is my pledge to all of you. The fighting between Albany and New York will stop. Instead, we’ll be starting to fight for the people of the state of New York. It’s that simple.

Elisa Crespo, the executive director of the new pride agenda. I want to thank you for your leadership. We have a number of bills to talk about here today, and I’m really excited to talk about it and talk about the leaders as well. I will look like a real hero when I pick up a pen in my hand and say, “I’m going to sign this.” That’s the easy part of the job. The hard part is coming up with the idea. Seeing an injustice that needs to be rectified, feeling so passionately about it that you’re going to take an idea, convert it into a piece of legislation, build support for it, have hearings, get it through the assembly, get it to the Senate and get it over the finish line.

I don’t take for granted how much work is involved with that. And so that brings us here today to talk about two very special bills, but also just why we need these bills in the first place. I mean, that’s what we need to get to, and you look at why are we still talking about these injustices? And there are leaders of the LGBTQ community who, in addition to our elected leaders, people from the community who have always been fighting the fight. People that care so passionately that whatever they’ve had to deal with in their own life, they won’t just internalize that and deal with it themselves. They’ll say, I know there’s a problem out there and I want to help solve it for others. 

Activists like Lorena Borjas, a transgender immigrant activists who we recently lost to COVID at the age of 69. Someone who had made a profound difference at the front of so many transgender battles in Queens and throughout New York. And she started a mission to protect sex workers, living with aids. She helped start a home for transgender women in her apartment. So many people like her. Think about Cecilia Gentili. I want to thank you for all your work that you’ve done. 

The kind of person who says you get into trouble at three in the morning, you need a doctor, a lawyer, housing? You call me and I’ll be there for you. I love that sense of commitment to others. 

And I want to continue the legacy of individuals like these, to continue fighting for our transgender community. Trans new Yorkers should not have any fear in their hearts. That is not the world we live in today. The violence, the discrimination, the pain caused these individuals for simply being who they are or walking down the street. And yes, we have eradicated some of the challenges. Walking while trans is banned. You now can walk while trans, how about that? But the fact that we had to overcome hurdles to say, you can walk while trans in the state of New York is a little bit maddening, but we got it done.

Thank you, Brad Hoylman and others who fought for this, but there’s still challenges. And we’ve been at the forefront of many of the victories, it’s been a long, long journey. But also, where are we here today? What are we talking about today? We’re here talking about an issue simply that should be in the, what I would call, a “No Brainer Category,” but it’s not, so we’re going to change this. The first bill gives utility customers the right to be addressed and acknowledged by their chosen names and by the correct pronouns. Now, that should not be a radical statement. But apparently it is, that we have to actually pass a law to change that, with more than 800,000 new Yorkers, LGBTQ and 80,000 who are transgender, this is what we just call common sense legislation that is long overdue. 

And so only 30% of transgender individuals actually changed their name because the process is so excruciating. I knew this back when I was a county clerk. What is a county clerk? I was in charge of the legal records and records for real estate way back in my past life a long time ago. I was simply asked by my friends in the LGBTQ community, “Can we have the ability to identify as we choose?” I said, yes, why not? What is the challenge here? This has not been the case statewide for our utilities and others. I want to make sure that they know that these individuals have these rights. So, start to reduce the barriers. No longer do we need a court order to change your name, it’s just too many obstacles and for a transgender individual being misgendered, it’s traumatic, it’s truly dramatic. It’s stressful. To be deadnamed. I mean, these are people with feelings and individuals who just deserve more than that. And to know that this is going on and causing them anguish, therefore, it causes me anguish. This is how I feel so deeply and passionately about the people of this state. So this legislation is necessary to streamline the process for utility corporations to respect a customer’s gender identities. It will also prevent the risk of individuals being found by an abusive family member partner, and reduce the risk of harassment in housing. So this is really important, I want to thank our leaders on this bill. I want to thank Senator Hoylman and Assemblymember Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas for having. To see a problem knowing how to correct it, and that’s why we’re here today. Let’s give them both a round of applause. 

Another bill that needs to be addressed is known as the START Act. And our sponsors are Member of Assembly, Richard Gottfried. We’ve done a lot, you have a lot of my pens these days. And Senator Jessica Ramos. And this is the Survivors of Trafficking Attaining Relief Together stands for START. And this builds on who I mentioned earlier, Lorena Borjas’ legacy, by strengthening the protections for victims of sex trafficking, labor trafficking, compelling prostitution and trafficking in persons who are convicted of a range of offenses as a result of that trafficking. It allows judges to clear convictions of all offenses resulting from being trafficked, making the bill more equitable and accessible for survivors. 

Again, these are the victims. These are the people who are trafficked. There is a sadly robust industry out there where people have no choice. They’re subjugated into this role matter as a matter of survival, either personal survival or economic survival. Therefore they are victims and they need to be protected. The START act enables judges to examine the facts related to their individuals’ victimization and make an individual decision as to eligibility. It also codifies that the relief is based on the merits rather than rehabilitation, acknowledging the person never should have been convicted in the first place. Also provides increased protection for immigrant survivors who are far more vulnerable to trafficking. Did you think about what happens when the traffickers bring individuals to places like Buffalo, where I was born? The trafficking coming in from Toronto, Chinese women, you’re told you can either work in five years at a nail salon to pay your passage or one year in sex trafficking. What kind of choice is that is for any human being, what kind of choice is that? That is going on in our state today and all over this country.

So we ensure that the court documents filed by survivors are confidential to protect their safety and dignity. It eases the criminal record for relief process, which can be traumatizing. And this is a critical step forward for individuals who’ve been subjected to this who are victimized, for them to have a record that allows them to re-emerge into society. Get a job without having a record, getting housing, getting education without this stigma, without this record, following them, this is just a recognition of people who have been victimized. 

So, these are just two of the bills that we’re working on. I also believe there’s so much more we can do. I have been to supportive housing for senior members of the LGBTQ community, when I walk in those rooms and I see that there’s this sense of relief. That especially older members of the community who don’t have children and grandchildren who can be checking in and them and looking out for them, people like my uncle Kevin, who ended up dying alone during COVID, didn’t have enough family checking in on him.

That is the story of far too many New Yorkers. It is a painful experience and we can do so much more to lift them up and know that, especially our older citizens, the life that they started, being openly gay in this state, when they were younger, could be brutal. It could be an experience where you’re rejected by your family.

Sometimes you’re rejected by your church, your community, and they’re the ones that we owe so much more to. So I will continue finding ways to partner with local organizations to bring supportive housing. Housing that will give them wraparound services, housing that will make them feel valued and loved, as they enter the older years of their lives.

Also, we just announced construction, $22 million to supporting housing development in central Harlem. And there’s no part of our city and our state that does not need housing like this. 

This is the bold agenda that I’ll be pushing forward to make sure that we recognize needs, whether it’s fixing problems with legislation or finding ways, and that it can drive economic development and housing to the people who truly need it.

That is my commitment. That is how I can use the role as your Governor to help lift up everyone and let them know they’re valued and that this is a place where there’s no tolerance for hate and that I will stand up against any act of discrimination, particularly against the trans community, because the murder rate for trans women is appalling. It’s shocking and it has to stop. 

And that is also my commitment. As we work together to make a safer community for everyone. As we come out of this pandemic, we have many challenges. But I look at these challenges as opportunities. Opportunities to lift people up and to do better than we even had before.

And that is on all of our shoulders as members of this community, our elected community, our partners, and also everyone. That we have an opportunity to bring back New York City, New York State, and become the envy of the rest of the nation. We value individuals. We value people and we show love, respect and dignity to all it’s that simple.

I know we can do this. So thank you for being here today. Thank you to our legislative leaders for making this happen.”