New York has repealed a controversial anti-loitering statute that many argue was used to specifically target trans people.
On Wednesday, the New York Senate voted in an overwhelming majority of 45-16 to strike down Statute 240.37 of the New York Penal Code, commonly referred to as the “Walking While Trans” ban. The vote had passed with an overwhelming majority in the state’s Assembly as well, with a vote of 105-44. Right after the Senate vote, Governor Andrew Cuomo officially signed it out of existence.
“COVID exposed low tide in America and the ‘walking while trans’ policy is one example of the ugly undercurrents of injustices that transgender New Yorkers — especially those of color — face simply for walking down the street,” said Cuomo in a statement. “For too long trans people have been unfairly targeted and disproportionately policed for innocent, lawful conduct based solely on their appearance.”
The policy was first instituted in 1976, as a means of making it illegal to loiter with the purpose of engaging in prostitution. Cuomo called the policy “archaic” in a statement given during the revocation and added that the repeal is a “critical step toward reforming our policing system and reducing the harassment and criminalization transgender people face simply for being themselves.”
There’s no real data available to underscore just how harmful the “Walking While Trans” ban had been in the past, but a Human Rights Campaign survey found that 60% of trans New Yorkers have faced discrimination or harassment from law enforcement. It makes sense when considered in tandem with reported experiences, like that of 45-year-old trans Latina woman Linda Dominguez, who won a $30,000 settlement after being charged with “false personation” for displaying ID that did not match her outward identity. After Dominguez’s case, the NYPD was forced to retrain its officers on LGBTQ+ sensitivity and redistribute guidelines on the rights of transgender people across the entire department.