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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2022                                 THE QUEENS TIMES                                                            PAGE 3

          Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas to Introduce Bill                                  Democracy Wins! Court Agrees With

          in the Assembly to Decriminalize Sexual Activity of People                               Assemblymember Pheffer Amato And
                                            With STIs                                           Orders NYC Board of Elections to Count
                                                                                                     Absentee Ballots in 23rd AD Race
        New York May Become the Next
        State to Repeal Its STI Criminal-                                                            New York State Supreme Court  noted that under state law, the in-
        ization Law                                                                             Judge Joseph Risi today ordered  terpretation of election laws and
                                                                                                the New York City Board of Elec-  rules “shall be construed liberally
             In honor of World AIDS                                                             tions to count 94 absentee ballots  in favor of… protecting the right
        Day, Assemblymember Jessica                                                             and 4 affidavit ballots which the  of voters to have their ballot cast
        González-Rojas announced that                                                           board had mistakenly declared  and counted.”
        she will introduce a bill in the                                                        invalid. The order came as a       “Voting is the cornerstone
        Assembly to decriminalize the                                                           result of a court action brought  of our American democracy,”
        sexual activity of people living                                                        by Assemblymember Pheffer  said Doug Forand, campaign
        with sexually transmitted infec-                                                        Amato to preserve and protect  spokesperson. “We will not allow
        tions (STIs). More specifically,                                                        the integrity of the election pro-  anyone to silence the voices of
        the new bill would repeal New                                                           cess by ensuring that every ballot  voters who have exercised their
        York State Public Health Law                                                            that should be counted would be  constitutional right to have their
        2307, a 76-year-old law, which                                                          counted.                     votes counted. We are grateful to
        makes it a misdemeanor for any                                                               The 94 absentee ballots in  the courts for following the law
        person with a known STI to have                                                         question were  all  from  voters  and rightfully ruling that these
        sexual intercourse with another.                                                        who had been deemed qualified  ballots must be counted.”
        The bill would also expunge any                                                         to vote by the Board of Election       Due to the close margin, the
        prior convictions. Currently, the                                                       when they were initially issued  race is already subject to an on-
        statute has no exceptions for cases                                                     their absentee ballots. Though  going mandatory hand recount.
        when a person with a known STI                                                          they were required to by law, the  Assemlymember Pheffer Amato
        discloses their status, is undetect-                                                    Board took no action to notify  currently leads by 7 votes overall
        able, or uses protection – it broadly                                                   these voters of their ability to vote  with almost 60% of the ballots re-
        criminalizes all sexual activity                                                        in a different manner, or to cure  counted. The recount is on track
        regardless of harm reduction ac-                                                        their ballots. Further, the board  to conclude Thursday.
        tivity. By repealing Public Health
        Law 2307, New York would join                                                                City Council Speaker Adams And
        twelve other states that have either                                                       Chancellor Matos Rodríguez Unveil
        repealed or amended HIV crimi-
        nalization laws. Assemblymember                                                           Plans For ‘One Stop’ Welcome Center
        González-Rojas is a member of the                                                            at York College to Help Students
        Assembly Health Committee and
        is currently one of four LGBTQ                                                                        Re-Enroll in School
        legislators in the New York State
             The criminalization of people  across New York State. If passed,   and STI transmission through pro-
        living with STIs in New York is  this new bill would ensure that   gressive public health approaches,
        rare, but it does occur. Not only are  people living with STIs can no   yet archaic laws that criminalize
        people criminalized pursuant to  longer be held criminally liable   people living with STIs remain
        Public Health Law 2307, but they  for having sex. Despite advances   on the books. It is past time to
        are at risk of prosecution under  in treatment and diagnosis, the   repeal these stigmatizing laws,
        assault statutes, and of civil com-  stigmatization and dissemination   which disincentivize disclosure,
        mitment. Violating Public Health  of myths concerning people living   ignore current science, and subject
        Law 2307 may be determined  with STIs and HIV are still high,   LGBTQ+ people, young people
        to be a “Crime Involving Moral  even in New York. Decriminal-  of color, and Black and brown
        Turpitude’’ for the purpose of im-  ization is one important step to   cisgender women to unneces-
        migration, and a conviction could  ending that stigma. More work   sary policing. Repealing Public
        either make someone deportable  must be done to increase testing,   Health Law 2307 and ending pros-
        or make it difficult for someone  and treatment, and to provide re-  ecutions based on people’s health   This $4.4 million effort is part  York’s Power Breakfast and in her
        to adjust their immigration status.  sources to people living with STIs.    status is a moral and public health   of CUNY Reconnect, a program  State of the City address.
        Black and brown young people,       The legislation is backed by   imperative,” said Jared Trujillo,   to encourage New Yorkers with       CUNY Reconnect naviga-
        Black and brown cisgender wom-  the  New  York  Civil  Liberties   Senior Policy Counsel at the New   college credits to complete their  tors, which were hired when the
        en, low-income people, LGBTQ+  Union (NYCLU), the Center for   York Civil Liberties Union.  degrees.                  program launched this fall, have
        people, and those occupying mul-  HIV Law and Policy, New Pride        “PHL §2307 is an outdated                      already reached out to more than
        tiple marginalized identities have  Agenda, Legal Action Center,   76-year-old law that reflects old   3,000 former students re-en-  50,000 people who were once en-
        well-documented histories of po-  Housing Works, Make the Road   prejudices and is contrary to   rolled this semester and more  rolled at CUNY and did not finish
        lice trauma, criminalization, and  NY, Legal Aid Society, Transgen-  modern  science.  It  stigmatizes   than 10,000 students have been  a degree. They have engaged with
        harassment from law enforcement.  der Law Center, Treatment Action   STIs and HIV which is contrary   contacted.      over 17,000 of those students and
        These groups are also at risk for  Group, and Lambda Legal.  to public health and disproportion-                      re-enrolled 3,000 of them. Help-
        HIV and other STIs. Public health       “On this World AIDS Day,   ately harms communities of color.       New York City Council Speaker  ing these former students resume
        research has found that increasing  I’m honored to join advocates in   We need more access to testing   Adrienne Adams joined Chancel-  their pursuit of degrees or other
        criminalization doesn’t change be-  announcing that I’m introducing   and healthcare, not criminaliza-  lor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez and  credentials will enable them to
        havior and that HIV transmission  legislation to finally decriminal-  tion.” - Jose Abrigo, HIV Project   York College President Berenecea  advance their careers, improving
        has gone down nationally. This  ize the sexual activity of people   Director, Lambda Legal.  Johnson Eanes today to unveil  their economic mobility and the
        repeal bill anticipates potential  living with sexually transmitted        “PHL 2307 is indicative of the   plans for the construction of York  city’s post-pandemic economy.
        changes in politics that would  infections (STIs), including HIV.   lack of sexual health and infec-  College’s new Welcome Center, a       “Helping working New York-
        result in greater enforcement or  New Yorkers living with HIV or   tious disease literacy surrounding   dedicated facility where former  ers complete their college degrees
        weaponization of Public Health  other STIs already face barriers   the routes, risks, prevention tools,   students will meet with counselors  will expand opportunities for eco-
        Law 2307 as it  stands, which  to accessing the care and support   and treatment realities for the   about re-enrolling in school and  nomic mobility that advance our
        would further perpetuate race,  they need, and criminalizing   transmission of HIV and other in-  getting the services and support  communities and local economy,”
        gender, and class inequities in the  them for sexual behavior only   fectious diseases. This law works   they need to complete a degree or  said Speaker Adrienne Adams.
        criminal legal system.       perpetuates racial inequities and   to perpetuate discrimination and   credential.       “CUNY Reconnect has already
             2023 is the 20th anniversary of  stigma rather than combat trans-  vilify those living with stigma-            The  new  center  is  part  of  supported thousands of students
        Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme  mission. Our laws should reflect   tized diseases, undermining New   CUNY Reconnect, a $4.4 million  re-enrolling at CUNY and will
        Court case that decriminalized  modern-day science. We know   York’s public health goals to ad-  program advanced by Speaker  reach even more people with the
        adult consensual sexual relation-  that increasing access to testing,   dress infectious diseases and end   Adams in this year’s city budget  services and guidance they need.
        ships after decades of police ha-  treatment, and other resources   the HIV epidemic.” - Jada Hicks,   to engage and re-enroll thousands  The addition of a new Welcome
        rassment of marginalized people.  helps to curb the transmission of   Staff Attorney, The Center for   of working-age New Yorkers who  Center at York College will fur-
        Repealing New York’s archaic  STIs, not criminalization. This   HIV Law and Policy.     have earned credits but left college  ther advance these efforts, and I
        statute is another step toward re-  archaic part of New York’s Public        “PHL §2307 is an archaic law   before they graduated. Black and  am excited by the impact it will
        specting individual autonomy and  Health Law belongs in the trash   that maintains a harmful moral   Latina women disproportion-  have for students at my alma ma-
        protecting vulnerable populations  heap of history, and I urge my   panic about people living with   ately comprise the population  ter. I am grateful for the leadership
        from dubious policing. Advocates  colleagues in Albany to support   HIV and STIs. Sex workers and   of students with college credits  of Chancellor Matos Rodriguez,
        believe it’s time for the legislature  this bill in the upcoming legis-  people profiled as sex workers,   but no degree. The program was  York College President Johnson
        to recognize that Public Health  lative session,” said New York   particularly trans and nonbi-  envisioned by the Center for an  Eanes, my Council colleagues,
        Law 2307 is counterproductive to  State Assemblymember Jessica   nary people of color, are put at   Urban Future’s research and first  and everyone who is supporting
        public health measures to reduce  González-Rojas.                                       proposed by Speaker Adams at
        STI transmission, including HIV,       “New York has reduced HIV   (Continued on page 10)  the Association for a Better New   (Continued on page 4)
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