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ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law legislation Tuesday repealing parts of the state’s so-called “Walking While Trans” law — a move that will bar law enforcement from arresting individuals who appear to be loitering for the purpose of prostitution.
The legislation removes a section of the state’s penal code that has been on the books since 1976, that advocates argue has unfairly targeted women, minorities and transgender people for decades.
The law formerly allowed police to arrest individuals found beckoning to or attempting to stop passersby either on foot or in a vehicle while in a public place for the purpose of prostitution.
The measure passed the state Senate by a vote of 45-15, and the Assembly 105-44.
Bill sponsors state Sen. Brad Hoyman (D-Manhattan) and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Rockland) argue the measure has been used to disproportionately target marginalized groups including those who identify as transgender.
“The Senate today corrects an injustice in our penal code that has permitted law enforcement to arrest transgender women—namely those of color, along with immigrants and LGBTQ youth—simply for walking down the street and the clothes they wear,” Hoylman said in a statement.
“This outdated, discriminatory statute has led to hundreds of unnecessary arrests of transgender women of color and a broader culture of fear and intimidation for transgender and gender nonconforming New Yorkers.
Paulin added: “The harassment prompted by the current law has been borne heavily by victims of human trafficking, and abused and exploited women, and does not reflect the reality that these victims deserve our help and support to escape their harmful environments, rather than submit them to further harm and degradation.”
Eighty five percent of those arrested under the statute between 2012 and 2015 were either Black or Latina, according to data shared by the lawmakers.