Ulster County Human Rights Protection Act Provides New Tools To Address Discrimination Locally
Kingston, N.Y. – Yesterday, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein signed the Ulster County Human Rights Protection Act of 2018 into law at the A.J. Williams-Myers African Roots Library in Kingston. The County Executive was joined by Ulster County Legislators; Ulster County Commissioner of Human Rights Nina Dawson; members of the Human Rights Commission; and Evelyn Clarke, former Commissioner of Human Rights. The Human Rights Protection Act mirrors the New York State Human Rights Law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of a person’s race, color, religion, ethnicity, creed, age, national origin, citizenship status, familial status, gender (including gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgender status), group identity, marital status, sexual orientation or disability. Under the law, the Human Rights Commission is empowered to mediate and settle complaints of discrimination locally, whereas previously cases had to be heard in Albany.
A human rights law was originally proposed in the early 1990’s by Lucy Honig, Gwen Wright, Ken Stevens, Ed Stark, and Gayle McGovern, then members of the Human Relations Committee of the Human Services Board (the precursor to the Human Rights Commission). Honig was instrumental in creating the structure of the Board and advocating for a comprehensive human rights law protecting all County residents, which laid the foundation for the present law. The law’s inclusivity was, however, ahead of its time and faced opposition due to its inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected class. A diverse coalition of local clergy, community organizations and advocates including the Ulster County NAACP and Council of Churches formed as a result urging the Legislature to pass the law.
Michael P. Hein, Ulster County Executive
“I am proud to sign the Ulster County Human Rights Protection Act into law. All people regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity or orientation who feel they have been discriminated against will now have the ability to have their cases heard and resolved right here in Ulster County,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. “Diversity and inclusion are not only principals that should be basic to us as Americans, but are vital for a vibrant and thriving County that is welcoming to all. The Human Rights Protection Act represents a hard-fought victory for the Human Rights Commission and advocates who have worked for over two decades to get the law passed. I commend Nina Dawson, the Director of the Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Task Force, and all of those, past and present, who have served on the Commission for their dedication to ensure that justice, equality and fairness is available to each and every resident of Ulster County.”
Nina Dawson, Ulster County Commissioner of Human Rights
“The Ulster County Human Rights Protection Act of 2018 gives the Ulster County Human Rights Commission the ability to mediate complaints made to the commission right here in Ulster County,” said Nina Dawson, Ulster County Commissioner of Human Rights. “This law strengthens the Commission’s capacity to investigate, hear and resolve local discrimination complaints. I am very proud of the efforts of the Human Rights Commission over the years to advance this legislation. This has long been a top priority for the Commission and its previous Commissioners, including my predecessor Evelyn Clarke, and its many advocates. The signing of this law by County Executive Mike Hein shows decisive leadership for Ulster County. I am honored to be a part of such an important part of our County’s history. It is the responsibility as the Ulster County Human Rights Commission to support the rights of all people.”
Richard Frumess, Founder of R & F Handmade Paints
“The passage of the Ulster County Human Rights Protection Act is vital to our County not only morally, but also to its thriving business and arts community,” said Richard Frumess founder of R&F Handmade Paints. “Tolerance, inclusivity and openness are values necessary to support creativity and promote new ideas that can help to unite the community. The contributions of advocates over the past twenty plus years have paved helped to create the welcoming community that we have today. I thank Ulster County Executive Mike Hein for his support and leadership in helping to bring this law to fruition.”
Jeff Rindler, Executive Director of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center
“The Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center applauds County Executive Mike Hein and Legislative Chair Kenneth Ronk for their leadership, vision and commitment to a Human Rights Law that protects everyone in Ulster County,” said Jeff Rindler, Executive Director of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center. “I am proud to serve on the Human Rights Commission and was honored to be a part of the group that drafted the law that will allow Ulster County to ‘take care of their own’ by offering skilled mediation and – if necessary –damages to settle a dispute. This allows those who do not have the means or wherewithal to go to Albany a local option to have their complaints addressed. It’s a great day for Ulster County.”
The Human Rights Commission exists to foster respect for the rights of all citizens and to explore opportunities for improving relations among all people of Ulster County. The current Ulster County Human Rights Commissioners are: Lynn Johnson, Joseph Donaldson, Carl Brown, David Clegg-Chair, Maria Elena Ferrer-Harrington, Alice Cook, JoAnne Myers, Shari Gold, Jeff Rindler, Anne Roschelle, and Thomas Maerling.
Pictured above (From Left): Evelyn Clarke , Previous Commissioner of Human Rights; Maria Elena Ferrer-Harrington, Member of the Human Rights Commission; County Executive Mike Hein, Jeff Rindler, Executive Director of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center; Ulster County Legislator Hector Rodriguez, and Nina Dawson, Ulster County Commissioner of Human Rights.