Transgender Nondiscrimination Law Passes Delaware House

The Delaware House of Representatives voted 24 to 17 to pass legislation protecting against discrimination on the basis of gender identity on Tuesday. The bill is an amended version of one that was passed by the Senate two weeks ago, meaning the bill now has to be approved by the Senate before heading to Gov. Jack Markell’s (D) desk. If the bill is signed into law, Delaware will become the seventeenth state to legally protect transgender people from discrimination.

The Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act would make discrimination on the basis of gender identity illegal in employment, housing, public accommodations, public works, contracting, and insurance. It would also make any violence or harassment motivated by gender identity discrimination into a hate crime.

Opponents of the law have attacked the law by calling it the “bathroom bill,” insinuating that transgender people are somehow dangerous, and that this law would allow or encourage anyone to enter any bathroom of their choice for any reason in a predatory manner. The House Amendment to the bill, introduced on Tuesday by Rep. Bryon Short (D), seeks to clarify the definition of gender identity to address such concerns. Whereas the original Senate bill defined gender identity as “gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth,” the amendment would add a clause stating that “Gender identity may be demonstrated by consistent and uniform assertion of the gender identity or any other evidence that the gender identity is sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity; provided, however, that gender identity shall not be asserted for any improper purpose.”

The amendment also includes a clause that would allow sex-segregated public venues like locker rooms to “provide reasonable accommodations” including “a separate or private place” for transgender people. Rep. Short and Equality Delaware President Mark Purpura clarified that no organizations would be required to provide such accommodations, but merely that they may do so if they wish. None of the provisions in the amendment are binding, or change the main purpose of the Senate bill in a significant way.

Currently, sixteen states and the District of Columbia have nondiscrimination laws in the books that include sexual orientation and gender identity amongst protections for ubiquitous categories such as race and religion. Four other states ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but do not include gender identity. At least 143 cities and counties also have nondiscrimination laws or ordinances protecting transgender individuals. Unlike the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act proposed in the US Congress, Delaware’s law introduces protections broadly to areas beyond employment.

The Delaware Senate passed the original version of the law by an 11-7 vote two weeks ago. If the House’s amended version is also approved by the Senate, the bill will head to Gov. Jack Markell, who has said that he will sign the protections into law.

Kumar Ramanathan is an intern at ThinkProgress.