Wednesday, May 17, 2017



Tempers flare over proposed Ulster gender identity discrimination law

KINGSTON – Heated debate erupted at the Ulster County Legislature session Tuesday night over a resolution to set a public hearing on a proposed local law prohibiting gender identity discrimination at public places.

Legislature Chairman Kenneth Ronk kicked off the fireworks by suggesting the law in its present form may be legally defective.

 “There is nobody on this side of the aisle or this side of the aisle that doesn’t want to protect transgender people,” Ronk proclaimed.  “This law doesn’t do that because it’s illegal.”

The two legislative legal counsels could not agree.  Majority Counsel Nicholas Pascale said it is illegal.  Minority Counsel Christopher Ragucci said it is legal because all it does is set a public hearing prior to the June 20 meeting.

Why the proposed law might be "illegal" was not clearly explained during the monthly legislative meeeting.

Democrat Tracy Bartels did not like the way things were going. 

“Right now, we’re allowing an attorney to tell us to basically to rule out something in advance of having a discussion,” Bartels said.

Democrat Jennifer Schwartz Berky claimed the local law, first proposed last fall, had been substantially gutted.  She called it “bait and switch” and said that getting the final revision an hour before last night’s meeting was not good faith.  “This is not respect,” Berky said.

Democrat Hector Rodriguez called for a discussion and a vote.

“If this is a matter in which you don’t want to vote on it, fine, so be it, but let’s not go and do what is the equivalent of a parlor trick,” Rodriguez said.

There will not be a public hearing on June 20.  The resolution was referred back to the Laws and Rules Committee on a 15 to 6 vote. 

Ronk said he would support a legally tenable law, even though he noted the state attorney general has mandated provisions that provide the same protections the county law likely would contain.


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