Ulster County Moves to Declare Drag and Other Forms of Gender Expression Protected Under Human Rights Law

Posted May 15, 2023

(Kingston, NY) – The Ulster County Legislature has moved forward on a Proposed Local Law No. 5, which will expand the existing Human Rights Law to include gender expression as a protected category from discrimination, with Resolution No. 310 passing the Laws & Rules Committee on Thursday, May 11.

“Across the country we are seeing drag performers and members of the LGBTQ+ community threatened by extremists in their towns and state legislatures, despite live entertainment being protected speech enshrined in the First Amendment. This law will forever ensure that Ulster County is a welcoming space for drag performers to express themselves freely and without bias or harassment,” said Vice Chair Peter Criswell (District 7 – City of Kingston), the author of the legislation.

Once adopted, Proposed Local Law No. 5 will add gender expression to the existing Ulster County Human Rights Law last modified in 2018. Under the Human Rights Law, those who believe they are the victim of discrimination based on gender expression can file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, which will investigate the claim and could result in an award up to $20,000 in damages following a determination of discrimination.

"Everyone should be able to live and thrive without fear of discrimination or prejudice, but unfortunately we are seeing more and more attacks nationwide on transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. By expanding Ulster County's Human Rights Law to include gender expression, we can better protect the safety and wellbeing of community members and foster a more inclusive community,” said Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger. “I want to thank Legislator Peter Criswell for introducing this resolution, and I look forward to the opportunity to sign the legislation when it is passed." 

“I encourage all to come to our public hearing on June 13 to speak in favor of including Gender Expression as a protected class, which will assist those who have been discriminated against in obtaining justice,” concluded Vice Chair Criswell.

A public hearing on this law will be held Tuesday June 13, 2023 at 7:00PM in Legislative Chambers. Following the hearing, the law will be voted on during the July 18, 2023 Session. Full text of Proposed Local Law No. 5 can be found here.




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