From the beginning, the people of New York desired that their government expand upon its legacy of inclusion. Each generation crafts its own laws and policies to permanently improve on the progress of the previous generation. Our state’s history shows a long march to equality that has slowly, but surely, given people of different beliefs, genders, colors, and nationalities new opportunities and experiences.
We believe we must be the family of America, recognizing that at the heart of the matter we are bound one to another.
Governor Mario Cuomo
President Cleveland, a proud New Yorker, expressed this idea when dedicating the Statue of Liberty in 1886: “She holds aloft the light which illumines the way to man's enfranchisement. We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home.”
Image: President Lyndon B. Johnson gives his remarks before signing the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Image by Yoichi Okamoto, courtesy of LBJ Library.
New York State's Human Rights
The Ives-Quinn Act
On March 12, 1945, Governor Thomas E. Dewey signed into law the Ives-Quinn Anti-Discrimination Bill which made New York the first state to enact legislation curtailing the practice of discriminating against job applicants and employees based on race, religion, or creed. The Bill was modeled by the Fair Employment Practices Commission whose policies were created by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941. In doing so, New York also became the first state to establish a permanent agency to enforce such legislation, the State Commission against Discrimination.
In 1968, the Ives-Quinn Anti-Discrimination Law was renamed the Human Rights Law, and the State Commission against Discrimination was renamed the New York State Division of Human Rights.
The Law has been expanded over the years to stay current with the changing American culture and with the needs of New Yorkers. In 1974, the Law was broadened to protect people with disabilities; in 1991, the Law was amended to protect families in the area of housing; in 1997, the Law was changed to include an express provision requiring reasonable accommodations in employment for persons with disabilities; in 2002, the Law was amended to protect both religious practices and religious observances; in 2003, the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act was passed to include sexual orientation among the protected traits/characteristics; and in 2003, the Law was extended to encompass military status.
Image: Irving McNeil Ives. Courtesy of the Legislative Library.
The Ives-Quinn law opened the door for Brooklyn Dodgers’ General Manager Branch Rickey to sign Jackie Robinson who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. After reading in the newspaper that Governor Dewey signed the Ives-Quinn Act into law, Rickey exclaimed to his wife, “They Can’t Stop Me Now.”
Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947 when he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. He went on to win Rookie of the Year, National League MVP, and a World Series Championship.
Immigration and Nationality Act
In 1965, politicians and reporters gathered at the foot of the Statue of Liberty to watch as President Lyndon Johnson signed the Hart-Celler Immigration and Nationality Act, ending national and race-based quotas for American immigration.
Image: President Lyndon Johnson signing the Hart-Celler Immigration and Nationality Act on Liberty Island, October 3, 1965. Image by Yoichi Okamoto, courtesy of the LBJ Library.
The impact of the Hart-Celler Act brought new immigrants from Asian and Eastern European countries who created new businesses and brought new cultures to the United States. Refugees fleeing Communism, poverty, and war increased the number of legal immigrants to the U.S. by more than 18 million in the 30 years after the signing of the Hart-Celler Act.
Many Cultures, One Community
Diversity and Inclusion in Buffalo
When the Erie Canal opened in 1825, Buffalo was a small village of 2,000 people. By 1910 the city boasted one of the busiest inland ports in the world, with more than 75 percent of its 350,000 residents being foreign-born. Vibrant Polish, Irish, Italian, and African-American traditions from that era continue today. More recently the region welcomes refugees from countries like Iraq, Burma, Somalia, and Bhutan. Nearby Niagara Falls brings in eight million visitors from around the world.
Image: Dyngus Day parade in Buffalo, New York. Image courtesy of Derek Gee/Buffalo News.
Historically a Polish-American tradition, Dyngus Day is celebrated the Monday after Easter. In Poland, it is known as Śmigus-dyngus. Over the past six decades, Dyngus Day has become a wonderful way to celebrate Polish-American culture, heritage, and traditions. The Dyngus Day festival in Buffalo has grown from just a few thousand locals attending at its origin in 1961, to bringing in fifty-thousand visitors from across the country in recent years. Buffalo, NY is the official Dyngus Day capital of America.
Utica - Proud of its Rich Immigrant Legacy
The city of Utica in upstate New York has been called a model for refugee resettlement. For nearly 40 years, immigrants from six continents—including the countries of Bosnia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, and the Dominican Republic—have been welcomed into “the town that loves refugees,” just like immigrants fleeing the occupation of Poland and the poverty in Italy made Utica their new home in the past. Utica’s recent immigrants have, in return, helped to restabilize population decline and revitalize neighborhoods in the post-industrial town by contributing to the diversity and growth of its academic and cultural institutions and opening ethnic restaurants, food markets, and boutiques to strengthen the local economy.