State Senate considers new slate of LGBTQIA+ rights bills

TV host Andy Cohen supports a state senate bill to legalize surrogacy in New York. Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP.

TV host Andy Cohen supports a state senate bill to legalize surrogacy in New York. Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP.

By Victoria Merlino

UPDATE 6/11/2019: Bill S6315 passed the Senate 60-1 (unofficial)

With Pride Month in full swing, a group of New York state senators detailed a package of LGBTQIA+ rights legislation Tuesday that would notably lift the ban on gestational surrogacy in New York — one of just two states in the nation where the practice is illegal.

The bills would also abolish the “gay panic” defense, create a LGBTQIA+ suicide prevention task force and restore LGBTQIA+ veterans’ eligibility for state programs if they were less than honorably discharged because of their sexual orientation or gender expression.

“We are standing here at a historic moment in New York,” New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said during a press conference about the bills.

The repeal of the gestational surrogacy ban — which prohibits gay or infertile couples from paying a woman to carry and deliver their baby via fertilization,— is championed by State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who has two children born through surrogacy.

If a gay or infertile couple currently wants to have a child through a surrogate, they have to leave the state and seek a surrogate somewhere else. The new bill would ensure that parents would be secure in their legal rights to their children delivered via surrogate, and that the surrogates would receive legal counsel and health insurance provided by the new parents.

“Now that we have marriage we can build the baby carriage,” Hoylman said.

With the passage of the bill, Hoylman said, New York surrogates would have the strongest protections of any state in the country.

“Watch What Happens Live” host Andy Cohen, another advocate for the bill, and spoke at the press conference about how he had to travel to California to find a surrogate to have his son. He said he was “shocked and amazed and crestfallen” to find out that surrogacy was not allowed in New York.

The elimination of the “gay panic” defense, another bill under consideration, would abolish the legal defense of excusing a violent attack or homicide on the grounds that the attacker was under extreme emotional duress after an LGBTQIA+ person revealed their identity.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signaled that he would be open to signing the surrogacy bill  and the “gay panic” elimination bill if they landed on his desk.

These are not the first bill  addresses LGBTQIA+ rights in New York this year.

In January, state lawmakers passed GENDA, which made it illegal in the state to discriminate based on gender identity or expression, and banned gay conversion therapy.