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N.Y. lawmakers ban gay discrimination


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ALBANY, New York (CNN) -- The New York State Senate voted Tuesday to pass a bill outlawing discrimination against gays in a wide variety of areas statewide, making New York the 13th state to enact such protections.

A majority of Democratic members in the state Senate led a bipartisan coalition to pass the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, or SONDA. The state Assembly overwhelmingly passed it in January, and Gov. George Pataki has promised to sign the bill into law as soon as it reaches his desk.

SONDA adds the words "sexual orientation" to the state's existing human rights and education laws, which prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, creed, color, national origin, disability, age and marital status.

"Today's vote is an important victory for tolerance and reflects my conviction that New Yorkers are one people who must stand together in reaffirming that everyone is entitled to the protections of the law against invidious forms of discrimination," Pataki said in a statement.

The bill complements a similar measure passed in New York City in 1986, and gives the state one of the broadest anti-gay discrimination laws in the nation. It outlaws bias on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, housing, credit, education and public accommodation.

New York's gay and lesbian community has been pushing for a statewide non-discrimination bill since 1971, when the first gay march on Albany was held and a non-discrimination bill was first introduced in the state Assembly and Senate.

"This lays the foundation for winning full equality under the law," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay rights advocacy group. "Thirty-one years was far too long to wait for a very basic civil rights measure to pass."

Foreman said the main impact of the new law will be felt in several dozen counties where no local anti-discrimination laws covering gays currently exist.



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