A law in place to help police prevent prostitution on the streets of New York has been repealed because activists said it led to discrimination against transgender people and other minorities.
Since 1976, New York Penal Law Section 240.37 criminalized loitering in public spaces if a police officer ascertained that the person loitering was doing so in order to commit prostitution.
Or rather it did so until Tuesday when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to end the law.
Critics of the law said that it was vague and allowed too much subjective interpretation that led to abuse by police officers. Data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services said that almost 1,300 people were arrested between 2012 and 2015. Of those, 85% were black or Latina.
Those who called for the end of the law called it the “Walking While Trans” ban.
Many praised Cuomo and state lawmakers for repealing the law.
“For too long New York State has permitted police to target New Yorkers solely for their gender expression, and frankly, their existence,” said New York City Councilmember Carlina Rivera in a statement Tuesday.
“I’m thankful today that not only will the Walking While Trans Ban be repealed,” she added, “but that New Yorkers who’ve been previously prosecuted under this law will now be able to seal their records as well, a critical change that will allow all New Yorkers to move on and live their lives free from the effects of this discriminatory law.”
“The loitering statute known as the Walking While Trans law has fueled discrimination in our neighborhoods, especially in its discrimination against Black women and trans women of color,” said New York state Sen. Julia Salazar.
The New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement they celebrated alongside their “trans + gender nonconforming advocate partners,” for the development.