A bill to protect transgender Delawareans from discrimination passed the senate, a day after clearing committee.
The 11 “yes” votes were met by applause and cheering from the gallery of the senate floor.
The bill would add gender identity to the state’s non-discrimination laws relating to employment, housing, insurance and public accommodations.
“This bill simply provides for the same protections already accorded to everyone on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation,” said Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, the bills primary sponsor.
Opponents of the bill took issue with how it could affect sex-specific facilities such as public restrooms or locker rooms, claiming that it provides an excuse for sexual predators to troll facilities and prey on children.
“Do you not agree that this absolutely opens up a portal for pedophiles, and I’m speaking of pedophiles, to have access to where our children go, where our families go and they can take advantage of this and opens up another way for them to enter into their criminal behavior,” asked Sen. David Lawson who voted against the bill.
Patricia Dailey with the Delaware Attorney General’s office said that scenario is highly unlikely.
“In terms of the abuse of children, the overwhelming number of children who have been sexually abused, have been sexually abused by people they know,” said Dailey. “It is rare that a child is sexually abused by a person they don’t know. In terms of children being followed into restrooms, that’s just not been our experience and mine for 28 years.”
She also noted that one of the worst sexual offender’s in the state’s history was Earl Bradley, a trusted pediatrician who was convicted of sexually assaulting more than 100 of his patients.
Many states as well as the District of Columbia have similar non-discrimination laws in place for transgender individuals and have no reported cases of a transgender person or transgender imposer causing harm in a public restroom, according to the bill’s supporters.
“The people that are the most endanger really, are people like Sarah, that would be suggested that she should go into a men’s room,” said Dailey.
Equality Delaware President Mark Purpura explained that the bill could be interpreted in a way that would allow public facilities to provide accommodations for transgender individuals.
“For example, a health club could require a transgender individual to utilize a separate changing area or provide some other reasonable accommodation such as a partitioned area to utilize,” explained Purpura.
The bill is now headed for a vote in the house.