Dear NYS Elected Officials:
Governor Andrew Cuomo
New York State Senate
New York State Assembly
Joint statement from Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens, Queeramisu and Stonewall Democrats of New York City urging the immediate passage of A654/S2253.
Dear NYS Elected Officials:
The LGBTQ+ Democratic Clubs of New York City urge you to prioritize the repeal of Penal Law 240.37 Loitering for the Purpose of Prostitution, also known as the “walking while trans” ban. In 2018, 91% of people arrested for the statute were Black or Latinx. At least 80% of people arrested were identified as female. People arrested under the “walking while trans” ban are criminalized for how they are dressed, how they look, or merely for existing in public spaces. In order to fully support the LGBTQ community, we must defend the most marginalized members of our community, and we call on you to prioritize the safety and dignity of transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) women of color by passi›ng A654/S2253 (Paulin/Hoylman).
The recent death of Layleen Polanco highlights the importance of prioritizing protecting TGNC people of color—our most marginalized community members—from state violence. Layleen was arrested for an activity that should not have been a crime, had bail set on her for a misdemeanor case, and languished in solitary confinement on Rikers Island for two months before dying. This month we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a violent protest by TGNC people of color such as Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, lesbians, sex workers, and homeless youth against police who were terrorizing them because of who they were. Stonewall is credited as the beginning of the LGBTQ rights movement, and the first Pride. Fifty years later, life is significantly better for our community, and there have been legislative gains this session with the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and the ban on the practice of conversion therapy on minors. However, while PL 240.37 is still law, TGNC people of color are not free to exist as their authentic selves without the threat of being arrested. These arrests are particularly traumatic for members of our community. Moreover, open cases and convictions can impact a person’s immigration status, housing, or ability to access employment and education.
In 2016, the Legal Aid Society and Cleary Gotlieb Stein and Hamilton LLP filed a civil rights class action against the City of New York alleging that PL 240.37 is unconstitutional on its face because officers were allegedly arresting women under the statute for wearing skirts, high heels, long boots, and often “appearing” transgender. A recent Daily News article provided the account of a police officer who “admitted in a deposition that he would look for ‘Adam’s apples’ when he arrested and detained them for loitering for prostitution” showing that he did this based on personal appearance. This statute is constitutionally dubious, and leads to excessive policing. The only way to TGNC communities from the harms of an arrest and all its collateral consequences is to repeal Penal Law 240.37 Loitering for the Purpose of Prostitution. We strongly urge you to stand with transgender and gender non-conforming communities and pass A654/S2253 (Paulin/Hoylman). It is deeply critical that we pass a bill that specifically addresses state violence against trans women of color before this session ends.
¹ Rayman, Graham. “NYPD Changes How It Applies Loitering Law as It Settles Legal Aid Lawsuit over Arrests of Transgender People, Women Accused of Prostitution.” Daily News, 5 June 2019.