County Executive Introduces Legislation Aimed at Combatting Discrimination in Westchester
(White Plains, NY) – When Westchester County Executive George Latimer took office in 2018, he made it a priority to strengthen and revitalize the Westchester County Human Rights Commission – a commission he helped to establish with State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and former Board Chair Lois Bronz during his time serving at the Board of Legislators. Joined by the Westchester County Human Rights Commission and representatives from some of the County’s volunteer advisory boards, Latimer introduced legislation further strengthening the Commission and aimed at combating discrimination in Westchester County.
County Executive George Latimer said: “This legislation has an impact every time any of us as Americans look at another American as an ‘other.’ Standing here as a grandson and great-grandson of immigrants, they would be proud to know we are standing up for everyone in this County – there is no ‘other’ but only a ‘we.’”
Under current Westchester County Human Rights Law, it is unlawful to discriminate in relation to employment, public accommodations, housing accommodation, commercial space and land transactions, and the issuing of credit – but what the Human Rights Law does not currently protect against discriminatory harassment outside of these specific actions.
Human Rights Commission Executive Director Tejash Sanchala: “This proposed amendment would expand the scope of the County’s Human Rights Law to protect against discrimination in many aspects of daily life that are not presented covered.”
Westchester County Asian-American Advisory Board Co-Chair David Imamura said: “Westchester has sent a clear signal today that hate and bigotry will not be tolerated in our County.”
Westchester County Hispanic Advisory Board Chair Robin Bikkal said: “Individuals in protected classes have been victims of acts of violence, racism, and hatred not withstanding prior legal protections. Passage of this vital law will insure that violators are brought to justice swiftly, unequivocally and with a full force of the law.”
Westchester County LGBTQ Chris Oldi said: “June is a month where the LGBTQ+ community comes together and pridefully uses our collective strength to show others who we truly are and gives us a platform to discuss the rights and protections that are important to this special community. It is appropriate, then, that the Westchester County Executive and the Westchester Human Rights Commission put forth legislation during this month to prohibit acts of discrimination and harassment against people in a protected class, which includes LGBTQ+. This action further shows that Westchester County and its administration strongly supports not only LGBTQ+ folx, but all other protected individuals who will truly benefit from the adoption of this legislation. We are thankful to the County Executive, his staff, and all those who assisted him with this legislation, as it brings pride not only to the LGBTQ+ Advisory Board, but to the County as a whole.”
Westchester Jewish Council President William H. Schrag said: “Westchester stands together against hate in any form, including the oldest form of group hate-- anti-Semitism. The Westchester Jewish Council is grateful to see that our local laws are being amended to protect against discriminatory harassment of anyone in our county.”
Westchester County Arab-American Advisory Board Member Hanade Sarar said: “Just look at everyone speaking here today. Westchester is a very diverse County and I am to be part of it and this Advisory Board. I thank the County Executive, Legislators and Human Rights Commission for these efforts – let’s live together in peace.”
The proposed change by Latimer will make it a unlawful discriminatory practice for a person to by “force or threat of force, knowingly injure, intimidate or interfere with or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to such other person by the constitution or laws of the United States, the constitution or laws of this state, or by local law, or by this chapter.”
For example, the change will prohibit interfering with a person’s right to the enjoyment of their home or residence, or to utilize and enjoy public transportation free from threats, intimidation, harassment, coercion or violence because of the person’s actual or perceived membership in a protected class.