The New York state Senate passed three bills on Monday that are part of the omnibus Women’s Equality Act introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) in June of 2013. The chamber passed bills preventing discrimination based on family status, preventing housing discrimination against domestic violence victims, and demanding equal pay regardless of gender.
The Women’s Equality Act, a 10-part legislative package, failed in the Senate last year when Republicans refused to support a plank that codifies Roe v. Wade and protects abortion providers from prosecution. In response, Senate Republicans introduced nine bills that directly mirrored the WEA – but failed to reproduce the abortion provision as a piece of legislation.
The three bills will now move to the Assembly, where members are divided on which strategy they will support for moving the package through the chamber. Although Assembly members are now requesting that the package be debated and passed as 10 separate bills, Assembly leaders and a coalition of women’s groups in the state have refused to take them up individually and are demanding they be passed as a comprehensive package instead. The three bills add pressure to Assembly leadership and members to forgo the package in favor of passing individual planks from the WEA instead.
Other planks in the full package include extending protections against sexual harassment to all workplaces, allowing the recovery of attorney fees in harassment cases, ending employment discrimination based on whether a woman has children or is pregnant, and strengthening order of protection laws and human trafficking laws in the state. Advocates who remain committed to passing the omnibus bill insist that the issues represented in the planks intersect and therefore must be passed together rather than individually, especially because the latter strategy puts the abortion plank at risk of being ultimately forgone.
A poll in June 2013 found that two-thirds of voters in New York supported the package with the abortion plank included, with support divided evenly among men and women.
Media Resources: Wall Street Journal 06/17/14; NY Daily News 06/12/14; Feminist Newswire 1/30/14, 06/06/13