June 25, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
AU graduate credited with securing passage of Del. transgender rights bill
Sarah McBride, Victory Fund, gay news, Washington Blade

Sarah McBride (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The transgender woman who advocates credit with securing passage of Delaware’s transgender rights bill told the Washington Blade on Monday she simply did the right thing.

“My mother and I went down (to Dover) and talked about what it means to be transgender, why for us this bill is necessary, why for the community this bill is necessary,” Sarah McBride said.

McBride, a Wilmington, Del., resident who was the student body president at American University from 2011-2012, came out as trans last May in an op-ed she wrote for the D.C. school’s student newspaper. She had been involved with Equality Delaware for several years, and joined the LGBT advocacy group’s Board of Directors after she came out.

McBride and her mother six months ago began meeting with Dover lawmakers in support of Senate Bill 97 that added gender identity and expression to Delaware’s anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws.

She told the Blade they “certainly fielded our fair share of questions about bathrooms and locker rooms and ‘unintended consequences’ of this bill.” McBride said the questions she and her mother received from legislators did not come as a surprise in spite of their personal nature.

“The vast majority of legislators and the vast majority of questions were completely respectful and were either friendly questions or were hard questions that just needed to be answered,” she said. “At minimum constituents would be asking those questions and they needed answers.”

McBride testified in support of SB 97 three times in the Delaware Senate and House. She also appeared in an Equality Delaware video in support of the bill.

She said she “briefly” met Delaware Family Policy Council President Nicole Theis, who repeatedly spoke against the bill.

McBride noted a woman who opposed SB 97 threatened “to hurt me if she saw me in the bathroom” after she testified in support of the measure in the House.

“I feel bad for them that they feel the need to put other people down,” she said. “I don’t take it personally. I think the vast majority of comments that people make that aren’t positive comments are out of ignorance and not out of hatred.”

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell last Wednesday signed SB 97 into law after the Senate approved a slightly amended version of the bill that passed in the House by a 24-17 vote margin.

The governor described McBride, who worked on his 2008 election campaign and was his personal aide when she interned for him after he took office, as an “intelligent and talented Delawarean” before he signed SB 97 into law.

“She courageously stood before the General Assembly to describe her personal struggles with gender identity and communicate her desire to return home after her college graduation without fear,” Markell said. “Her tireless advocacy for passage of this legislation has made a real difference for all transgender people in Delaware.”

Victory Fund President Chuck Wolfe also applauded McBride, who also interned for his organization.

“Congratulations to the many advocates and lawmakers who fought for this important victory,” he said after Markell signed SB 97 into law. ”Among them was our former intern, Sarah McBride, whose family stood with her as she bravely came out as trans and asked her state for full equality under law. I’m so proud of Sarah and her parents.”

McBride, who graduated from American University last month, described the governor’s comments as “an incredible honor.”

She acknowledged trans advocates were angry over the anti-discrimination bill that Markell signed into law in 2009 that included sexual orientation, but not gender identity and expression. McBride added, however, SB 97 proves “our government is an ally” for trans Delawareans.

“It says that our state and our community is finally a safe and secure place for us to live, to visit, to raise a family,” she said. “It gives hope to — I hope — a lot of people, both transgender people who are out and also people who are struggling with their gender identity, that they know that Delaware is a welcoming place for them and for all people.”

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

Sarah McBride and other Equality Delaware members celebrate the final passage of Senate Bill 97 on June 19 (Photo courtesy of Equality Delaware)

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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