June 19, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Markell signs transgender rights bill into law

Equality Delaware, Senate Bill 97, transgender rights, gay news, Washington Blade

Equality Delaware supporters celebrate the final passage of Senate Bill 97 on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Equality Delaware)

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell on Wednesday signed a bill that will add gender identity and expression to his state’s anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws.

“Our mission to build a welcoming and accepting state that can compete in the global economy requires laws that reflect our values,” he said. “Today, we guarantee that our transgender relatives and neighbors can work hard, participate in our communities and live their lives with dignity and in safety.”

The state Senate by an 11-9 vote margin earlier in the day approved an amended version of Senate Bill 97 that passed in the Delaware House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins (D-Claymont) voted for SB 97 along with state Sens. Catherine Cloutier (R-Heatherbrooke,) Bethany Hall-Long (D-Middletown,) Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington,) Robert Marshall (D-Wilmington,) David McBride (D-Hawk’s Nest,) Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington,) Karen Peterson (D-Stanton,) Nicole Poore (D-New Castle,) David Sokola (D-Newark) and Bryan Townsend (D-Newark.) State Sens. Colin Bonini (R-Dover,) Bruce Ennis (D-Smyrna,) Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View,) Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley,) David Lawson (R-Marydel,) Ernesto Lopez (R-Lewes,) Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown,) Gary Simpson (R-Milford) and Robert Venables (D-Laurel) voted against the measure.

State Sen. Brian Bushweller (D-Dover) did not vote.

“We are extending the same basic protections against discrimination and hate crimes that all our other citizens enjoy to a group that has been discriminated against for a long time,” Henry, who sponsored SB 97 in the state Senate, said.

Sixteen states and D.C. have trans-inclusive anti-discrimination laws. Thirteen of those states and the nation’s capital have also added gender identity and expression to their hate crimes statutes.

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Padilla García last month signed a bill into law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the U.S. commonwealth. The New York Assembly last month once again approved a measure – the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act – that would add trans-specific protections to the state’s non-discrimination and hate crimes laws.

“The Delaware Legislature sent a clear message today that transgender residents deserve to be treated equally and protected under the law,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said. “Delaware advocates and lawmakers are standing up and ensuring that the First State is one which welcomes all people, and provides the same protections and opportunities.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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