LGBT and Same-Sex Marriage Protections

New York State residents receive LGBT and same-sex marriage protections under a variety of state and local laws.  For information on whether a specific law applies to you, or if you believe you have been the victim of discrimination, contact the Civil Rights Bureau at (212) 416-8250 or

New York State LGBT Laws

The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (“SONDA”)

The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, effective as of January 16, 2003, makes it unlawful for anyone in New York State to be discriminated against in employment, housing, credit, education and public accommodations because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.  SONDA, in combination with laws prohibiting discrimination based on marital status, together prohibit discrimination against same-sex couples in employment, housing, credit, education and public accommodations.

With respect to transgender persons, SONDA does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and expression.  However, SONDA does apply when a transgender person is discriminated against based upon his or her actual or perceived sexual orientation.  Courts have also held that transgender people are protected under provisions of the New York State Human Rights Law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and/or disability.  Moreover, in 2009, then Governor David Paterson issued an executive order prohibiting discrimination in state employment on the basis of gender identity.

If you believe you have been the victim of discrimination prohibited by SONDA, you may file a complaint with the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General's Office.  Making a complaint with the Attorney General does not satisfy other statutory filing deadlines that may apply. 

Dignity for All Students Act (“DASA”)

The Dignity for All Students Act, effective as of July 1, 2012, seeks to provide the State’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment and bullying on school property, school buses, and during school functions.  In 2012, the law was extended to apply to cyberbullying, prohibiting bullying and harassment via electronic communication.  Prohibited activities can include aggressive conduct, threats, intimidation or abuse that unreasonably and substantially interferes with another student’s educational performance.  For more information on DASA, click here:

Local LGBT Laws

Various New York jurisdictions, including but not limited to those listed below, prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in one or more of the following contexts: public employment, private employment, public accommodations, education and/or housing

City of Albany
Village of Alfred
City of Binghamton
Town of Brighton
City of Buffalo
Town of East Hampton
City of Ithaca
New York City
City of Plattsburgh
City of Rochester
Town of Southampton
City of Troy
City of Watertown
Albany County
Nassau County
Onondaga County  
Suffolk County
Tompkins County
Westchester County

            Six cities and three counties in New York State prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. These are Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Ithaca, New York City, Rochester, and Suffolk, Tompkins and Westchester Counties.

The State’s Department of Health accommodates changes of sex designation on birth certificates upon the receipt of specified documentation; this includes but is not limited to a completed application and a letter from a surgeon specifying the date, place and type of sex reassignment surgery performed.

Marriage Equality

Same-Sex Marriages Performed in New York

New York State’s 2011 Marriage Equality Act also gives same-sex couples the right to marry in New York State and provides them the same rights, responsibilities, and benefits under State and local law enjoyed by opposite-sex couples. The Marriage Equality Act does not require religious institutions to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, but no state employee can refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  

Major benefits of the New York Marriage Equality Act include the opportunity for same-sex couples to reap state tax benefits, state and municipal employee benefits, insurance benefits from state-licensed insurance agencies, health care benefits, expanded property rights, parental rights and a wide array of legal rights.  Same-sex couples are now able to file joint state tax returns, take spousal deductions on state income taxes, exclude employer contributions for health insurance, exempt property from the state estate tax, and receive other tax benefits previously available only to opposite-sex couples. However, because federal law currently precludes the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages under the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), same-sex couples are prevented from jointly filing their federal taxes and from taking advantage of other federal tax exemptions available to opposite-sex couples such as the estate tax marital deduction, and other income tax deductions and credits.