County Executive Mike Hein signed the “Ulster County Human Rights Protection Act of 2018” on Tuesday, Sept. 12 amidst county legislators, members of the community and the new Human Rights Commission which the law forms. Under the legislation, Ulster County residents can seek redress of discrimination complaints locally before this commission.
“This is what I affectionately call the ‘taking care of our own law,’” said Jeff Rindler, executive director of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center in Kingston and a member of the task force that wrote the law. “Historically, if you were discriminated against you would have to go to Albany. Those of us that are discriminated against can be vulnerable, without the means to do that.”
The ceremony took place at the A.J. Williams-Myers African Roots Library in the Ponckhockie section of downtown Kingston.
The law allows those who are unsatisfied with the results of the commission’s mediation to bring the case before an administrative law judge to possibly award damages. It does not prevent residents from making complaints on a state level.
“We live in a world that is divisive, frightening, and permission has been handed out to discriminate,” said Hein before signing the document into law. “It’s not OK, not OK as human beings and not acceptable in Ulster County.”
Just like state law, the county version prohibits discrimination in employment, accommodations, recreation, real estate transactions and in the issuance of credit.
A similar law was proposed last year, but wasn’t actualized. In a press release, County Legislature Chairman Ken Ronk, Republican of Wallkill, said he was happy a law was crafted that everyone could get behind.
“After two years of partisan wrangling with various versions and language, these thoughtful and insightful individuals were able to look at the big picture and develop legislation that will serve and protect the people of Ulster County who need it most,” said Ronk.
Legislature Minority Leader Hector Rodriguez (D-New Paltz) said this legislation “makes us unique and is something to be celebrated” as it’s the only such law in the state.