A bill to add gender identity to Delaware’s non-discrimination laws passes committee

A bill to add gender identity to Delaware’s non-discrimination laws cleared the senate judiciary committee Wednesday.

“This bill adds the term gender identity, defined as a gender-related identity or appearance, expression or behavior of a person regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth to our state’s hate crime laws and our employment, housing, insurance, public works and public accommodations non-discrimination laws,” explained Equality Delaware President Mark Purpura who lobbied for the bill.

He added that the bill clarifies that employers are still able to enforce dress codes and uniforms in the workplace. It would also require colleges and universities to make accommodations to transgender students.

The committee heard first hand testimony from Sarah McBride, a transgender resident who worries about discrimination every day.

McBride said she knew for a long time that she was transgender, but she didn’t come out until college.

“Throughout my entire life I struggled with who I really am,” said McBride. “For the longest time I buried it deep inside and tried to move on. In reality, I thought about my true gender identity every single waking hour. I watched as my life passed me by and I was afraid to live as my true self. It wasn’t that I was afraid of my parents or friend’s acceptance; I kept it inside and dealt with the pain because I was afraid of discrimination.”

Her parents also testified on behalf of the bill and recalled the moment when their son, Tim, wanted to become Sarah.

“We we’re so frightened that his future could be shattered by discrimination,” said a tearful Sally McBride.

Those who oppose the bill claim it’s too vague and opens the gate for sexual predators to “pose” as transgender and prey on children.

“Do you want your five-year-old daughter to see a full grown naked man simply because they feel like a woman,” asked Rev. Mike Fox who opposed the bill.

The state passed a bill to add sexual orientation to its non-discrimination laws four years ago. The issue comes on the heels of Delaware passing the same-sex marriage bill last month.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal