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When County Executive George Latimer first took office in 2018, he made it a priority to strengthen and revitalize the Westchester County Human Rights Commission in an effort to combat discrimination and harassment incidents throughout the County. On Friday, Latimer will fulfill his promise by signing into law the Anti-Discriminatory Harassment Bill, legislation that expands the type of harassment that can be prosecuted under the law.

Latimer said: “When I sign this bill into law, we do away with any further reference to ‘other’ and ensure that there is only a ‘we’ in our County. Westchester is very diverse, and we should all embrace any differences that exist between us. Today, I stand together with each and every one of you, solidifying our message that harassment and discrimination must end in Westchester County.”     

Watch the full news conference.

Under the 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 is discriminatory harassment outside of these specific actions.

The change initiated by Latimer makes it an 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.”

With the new law in place, individuals are prohibited from 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.

Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission Tejash Sanchala said: “This new law is a timely and proactive approach to combatting discrimination in venues that are not otherwise covered by the County’s Human Rights Law.  With this expansion of the Commission’s jurisdiction, the County’s Human Rights Law is a leader in affording anti-discriminatory protections to residents and visitors in Westchester.”

Board of Legislators Chairman Ben Boykin said: “In recent years, sadly, we’ve seen an uptick in acts of harassment of others on the basis of who they are, how they worship, whom they love.  This law says, enough is enough. If you threaten, intimidate, vandalize property, or otherwise harass another human being because of who they are, we will not tolerate it. Of course, this law sends a message -- that hate and harassment are not welcome in Westchester. But – this law does more than that. It gives the Human Rights Commission the power to require remediation, and if necessary, assess meaningful, substantial financial damages. I want to thank County Executive George Latimer and the members of the County’s Human Rights Commission for advancing this legislation, and my colleagues on the Board for passing it.”

Chair of the African American Advisory Board Barbara Edwards said: “Westchester County has the proud distinction of having a progressive statesman in County Executive George Latimer, who is committed to fostering a policy that prohibits discrimination and harassment, and encourages appropriate conduct among all citizens. The law that he will sign reflects the requirements of federal, state and local policy, which governs the prevention of discrimination and harassment. The African American Advisory Board is encouraged by the signing of the Anti-Discriminatory Harassment Bill and reassured to know that Westchester County government embodies a policy that does not tolerate unlawful practices that will be forbidden by its tenets.” 

Tamika Rose of the African American Advisory Board said: “As an African American woman with a business in Westchester County and a lifelong resident it fills my heart with joy to witness such a monumental accomplishment.  I myself have experienced discrimination in housing, job opportunities, and business overall. We are shouting, ‘discrimination has no place in Westchester County!’ Thank you County Executive George Latimer for your leadership and mission for equality for all!”

Co-Chair of the Asian American Advisory Board Marjorie Hsu said: “The Asian American Advisory Board applauds County Executive Latimer and our Board of Legislators for passing this Anti-discriminatory harassment legislation to combat the abhorrent attacks against our AAPI community these past 18 months, often against seniors and the most vulnerable.” 

Robin Bikkal of the Hispanic Advisory Board said: “The Hispanic Advisory Board is grateful to County Executive Latimer and the Board of Legislators for their hard work on behalf of the most vulnerable in our community. Our immigrant communities too often are the target of attacks, discrimination and harassment.”

President of the Westchester Jewish Council William H. Schrag said: “It’s gratifying to know that hate not only has no home in Westchester, but that any attempt to change that will not be tolerated in Westchester.”

James Young (he/they) of the Westchester County LGBTQ Advisory Board said: “It is exciting that this bill was introduced during Pride Month, a time of the year when LGBTQ+ identities are celebrated and honored, and is being signed into law on Friday, October 8 in the midst of LGBT History Month, and just a few days away from October 11, National Coming Out Day.  We thank County Executive Latimer and the Board of Legislators for taking a stance to end discrimination in Westchester County, and making it safer for folks to fully be themselves in this County."

Hussein Rababah of the Arab American Advisory Board said: “The time is now, to bring peace and have everyone feel brotherhood and sisterhood for one another. The only race we should see and recognize is the human race. I applaud County Executive Latimer for this needed legislation.”