Delaware Legislature Passes Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act

Transgender people in Delaware are now a protected class under the state’s anti-discrimination laws. The Senate voted 11-to-9 Wednesday to give final legislative approval to a bill adding gender identity to the list of protected nondiscrimination categories, including race, age, religion and sexual orientation.

The legislation also allows for enhanced penalties under Delaware’s hate crimes law for targeting someone based on his or her gender identity.

Democratic Gov. Jack Markell signed the bill into law Wednesday evening, saying discrimination against transgender people is “inherently wrong.”

Supporters say the law is needed because transgender people can be straight or gay and are thus not protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Opponents argued that the law is unnecessary and will lead to disturbances by men lurking in girls’ restrooms and locker rooms, then claiming to be transgender.

“I do know that there will be irate parents when this takes place,” Sen. David Lawson, R-Marydel, said before Wednesday’s vote.

In an effort to address such concerns, the House amended the bill this week with language 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,” and that gender identity cannot be asserted “for any improper purpose.”

The amendment also emphasizes that places of public accommodation such as health clubs can provide reasonable accommodations based on gender identity in areas where disrobing is likely, such as locker rooms or other changing facilities. Those reasonable accommodations could include separate changing areas for transgender people, with supporters saying business owners could require transgender people to use those separate facilities.