Wednesday afternoon, the Delaware Senate voted 11-9, with one not voting, to pass a law protecting transgender people from discrimination based on their gender identity. When Gov. Jack Markell’s (D) signs the Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act into law, Delaware will become the seventeenth state to legally protect transgender people from discrimination. Gov. Markell has expressed his support for the legislation, and an outspoken advocate for transgender equality in the state.
The law provides broad protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public works, contracting, and insurance. An amendment passed by the Delaware House yesterday added additional common-sense clarification to the legislation, indicating the clear intent that the anti-discrimination protections cannot be used for “improper purpose,” and permitting (but not requiring) business owners to offer reasonable accommodations in places where disrobing is likely. The law’s passage will also update Delaware’s hate crimes statute to cover violence motivated by bias on the basis of gender identity.
Though opponents, implying that anti-discrimination protections for transgender people somehow endanger women and children, derisively referred to the bill as the “bathroom bill,” Delaware leaders largely moved past the smear. One Representative publicly called this argument out as a ploy used to mislead Delawareans into opposing the bill, and Delaware’s Attorney General, Beau Biden — who very publicly supports harsh penalties for child abuse and sex crimes — supported the legislation since its introduction. Testimony in the Senate last week from the head of the state’s Family Division in the Department of Justice similarly slammed the scare tactics, saying that, quite simply, “it does not allow predators to prey on children.”
The legislation also received bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, which seems likely to be a harbinger of a time when support for LGBT equality becomes the national bipartisan consensus. The federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has been introduced with bipartisan sponsorship, 73% of likely voters support employment protections for LGBT workers, and LGBT people themselves are feeling optimistic about the future of equality.
Gov. Markell has signed the bill into law, officially making Delaware the 17th state to offer trans nondiscrimination protections.
An earlier version included an incorrect Senate vote count.
Andrew Cray is a Policy Analyst for LGBT Progress at the Center for American Progress.