Anti-Discrimination Laws Protect the Obese in New York 

Ollyy / shutterstock.com
Ollyy / shutterstock.com

For “fluffy” New Yorkers, Friday, May 26, 2023, was a day to celebrate as Mayor Eric Adams signed an anti-discriminatory bill that places weight and height in the same protected class as race and religion. 

The new legislation, expected to go into effect in November 2023, makes it illegal for employers and landlords to discriminate against someone based on their height or weight. Mr. Adams explained, “We all deserve the same access to employment, housing and public accommodation, regardless of our appearance, and it shouldn’t matter how tall you are or how much you weigh.” 

Adams is no stranger to the health implications of poor eating habits and authored a book about his personal journey with type II diabetes. Published in 2020, “Healthy at Last: A Plant-Based Approach to Preventing and Reversing Diabetes and Other Chronic Illnesses” outlines his diabetes diagnosis and the natural, healthy eating habits he adopted to battle the disease. 

But rather than finding ways to encourage obese people to find ways to drop pounds and live healthier lives, Adams has passed legislation to place them on the growing list of people suffering discrimination. 

The legislation has received both high praise and severe backlash from city leadership. New York City Republican City Councilman Joseph Borelli warns that the legislation will be the source of many frivolous lawsuits, stating that this new law will “empower people to sue anyone and everything.”  

Borelli also disagrees that obesity equates to victimhood, saying, “I’m overweight but I’m not a victim. No one should feel bad for me except my struggling shirt buttons.” 

New York City Council Member Shaun Abreu disagrees and believes that the obese deserve a protected status. “They’re being discriminated against with no recourse and society saying that’s perfectly fine.” He goes on to say, “Size discrimination is a social justice issue and a public health threat. As the global beacon of tolerance, it is only right that New York City is leading the national effort to end size discrimination with the signing of this law today.” 

“Fat Fab Feminist” Victoria Abraham spoke before the city council to support the legislation, in an interview with ABC7NY, she explained, “In most places in the United States, you can get fired for being fat and have no protection at all, which is crazy because this is a very fat country.” 

Other supporters of the legislation include Virgie Tovar, author of “You Have the Right to Remain Fat.” In her book, Tovar claims the obese are the “ultimate victims,” describing “fatphobia” as the “new language of classism and racism.” She writes, “In our culture, fat people are used to scapegoat anxieties about excess, immorality, and an uncontained relationship to desire and consumption.”  

The legislation is the natural progression of culture wars sustained by public figures, such as the entertainer Lizzo, who demand acceptance for their obesity. In January, Time Magazine showed support for this movement, labeling exercise as “white supremacy.” 

The ripple effects of “fat acceptance” are felt in many industries. In 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration updated weight guidelines for planes to accommodate the obese, and multiple petitions have been filed to demand bigger bathrooms and free seats for the overweight passengers. US health officials estimate the current rate of obesity at 42% nationwide, blaming diets of ultra-processed foods with no nutritional value and dangerous levels of sugar, salt, and fats. Americans live a sedentary lifestyle, another contributing factor to the obesity epidemic. 

Adams insists that New York City will continue to encourage healthier choices for its residents but cautions, “Science has shown that body type is not a connection to if you are healthy or unhealthy.” This observation seems to contradict the facts, which include an alarming rise in obesity-related disabilities. 

Kathy Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, warns that “the extent of the impact and cost of this legislation” had not been “fully considered.”  

The bill makes exceptions for physically demanding jobs where obesity may interfere with the ability to perform duties. This will, of course, be subjective and the road to defining these jobs will be paved with many lawsuits. Under the new law, alleged incidents of “fat discrimination” will be investigated by the New York City Commission on Human Rights. 

New York is the latest city to pass obesity anti-discrimination laws, joining the ranks of other liberal strongholds like Washington DC, San Francisco, and the somewhat more moderate state of Michigan. 

“Anti-discriminatory” laws like this defeat the purpose of protection. Historically, discrimination was limited to things that could not be changed, such as age, race, religion, and, arguably, sexual orientation.  

They were never intended to cultivate a culture of unhealthy choices. 

Why this debate has become the latest cause for liberal cities such as New York is a mystery. Perhaps this is just another “soft on crime” law that limits the ability of police officers to chase criminals.