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Delaware Senate approves transgender rights bill

SB 97 would add gender identity to anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws

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Jack Markell, Equality Delaware, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade, gay marriage, same sex marriage, marriage equality, HB 75, marriage equality

Gov. Jack Markell supports a bill that would add gender identity to Delaware’s anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Delaware Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would add gender identity and expression to the state’s anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws.

The 11-7 vote came after lawmakers debated the measure that Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington) introduced late last month. Senate Bill 97 would specifically ban anti-transgender discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and works contracting and insurance.

Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) and state Sens. Catherine Cloutier (R-Heatherbrooke,) Bethany Hall-Long (D-Middletown,) Robert Marshall (D-Wilmington,) David McBride (D-Hawk’s Nest,) Harris McDowell III (D-Wilmington,) Karen Peterson (D-Stanton,) Nicole Poore (D-New Castle,) David Sokola (D-Newark) and Bryan Townsend (D-Newark) voted for SB 97.

Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson (R-Milford) and state Sens. Colin Bonini (R-Dover,) Bruce Ennis (D-Smyrna,) Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View,) David Lawson (R-Marydel,) Ernesto Lopez (R-Lewes) and Robert Venables, Sr., (D-Laurel) voted against the measure. State Sens. Brian Bushweller (D-Dover) and Senate Majority Whip Gregory Lavelle (R-Sharpley) abstained, while Sen. Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown) was absent.

“This bill lets people know that Delaware will welcome you and that, in keeping with our highest ideals as Americans, we will not tolerate discrimination or violence against a person based on their race, color, religion, sexual orientation or now based on their perceived gender,” Henry said after the vote.

Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman also welcomed SB 97’s passage.

“We are so proud of the 11 senators who voted today to make Delaware a fair and welcoming place for transgender Delawareans,” she told the Washington Blade.

WDDE reported Delaware Family Policy Council President Nicole Theis was among those who testified against SB 97 during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday. The public radio station said Theis, who also testified against the same-sex marriage bill that Gov. Jack Markell signed into law last month, told lawmakers the measure would allow criminals to go into bathrooms and locker rooms.

“There’s nothing in this legislation that would prevent a predator who wants to express themselves as a female from having access to all of those public accommodations,” Theis said.

Bonini also accused Deputy Attorney General Patricia Dailey Lewis of lying during her testimony in support of SB 97 after she responded to his hypothetical question about whether he would be arrested if he walked into a TGIFridays bathroom wearing a dress and a wig. Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, who presides over the Senate, and other senators challenged the Dover Republican for interrupting Lewis.

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 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 University of Delaware has also added gender identity and expression to its anti-discrimination policies.

Attorney General Beau Biden and Markell have both publicly backed SB 97.

“We’re very focused in Delaware on making sure the law does not discriminate,” Markell said in a press release. “We’re a very welcoming state and we want people who want to build a good life here.”

The House Administration Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on SB 97 on June 12.

Goodman told the Blade she remains optimistic it has enough votes to pass in the House.

“We are confident that our House will pass the bill, and Gov. Markell is ready to sign it,” she said.

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee tables three anti-transgender bills

Measures would have banned trans athletes from school teams

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Thursday tabled three bills that would ban transgender athletes from school teams corresponding with their gender identity.

The Senate Education and Health Committee’s Public Education Committee tabled state Sen. John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake)’s Senate Bill 911, state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Louisa County)’s Senate Bill 1186 and state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 962.

“We’re one step closer to these bills being gone for good,” said Equality Virginia in a tweet.

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District of Columbia

‘Talking Trans History’ explores lives of D.C. advocates

Rainbow History Project holds first panel for city-funded Trans History Initiative

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Seated from left panelists Earline Budd, Rayceen Pendarvis, and Gabrielle ‘Gibby’ Thomas are joined by Rainbow History Project officials and supporters. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Longtime D.C. transgender rights advocates Earline Budd and Gabrielle ‘Gibby’ Thomas gave personal accounts of their transition as transgender women and their work as trans rights advocates Tuesday night, Jan. 24, at a “Talking Trans History” panel discussion organized by D.C.’s Rainbow History Project.

Joining them as a panelist was Rayceen Pendarvis, the acclaimed local event host, public speaker, and LGBTQ community advocate. Pendarvis, among other things, told of being nurtured and taught by dynamic transgender women who proudly affirmed their identity not only as trans people but productive citizens in the community at large.

Vincent Slatt, Rainbow History Project’s director of archiving, served as moderator of the panel discussion. He told the audience of about 25 people who gathered at the Southwest Branch of the D.C. Public Library that the event was the first of many such panels planned by the project’s recently launched Trans History Initiative.

Slatt noted that Rainbow History Project received a $15,000 grant for fiscal year 2023 from the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs to conduct the Trans History Initiative. The initiative plans to “better integrate the often-under-represented histories of trans people into our programming,” according to a RHP statement.

Budd, 64, who has been a trans-identified activist since the 1970s, became involved in the 1980s with supporting people with HIV/AIDS before founding the D.C. organizations Trans Health Empowerment and Empowering the Transgender Community (ETC), for which she currently serves as executive director. She has received numerous awards for her work in support of the trans community and her self-proclaimed role as “the advocate” for the trans and LGBTQ community.

In her remarks at the panel discussion, Budd told of her childhood upbringing in a religious family where, like many trans people, her parents didn’t approve of her early identity as a girl.

“I want to say that around eight or nine my mother found me to be different,” Budd said. “The difference was she would lay my clothes out, my sister’s clothes and my clothes for us to go to school. And when I would come downstairs, I would always have on my sister’s clothes,” Budd told the gathering.

“And she would say why do you have on your sister’s clothes?” Budd continued. “I said mommy, it fits. No, it does not, you’re a boy,” Budd quoted her mother as responding. “And let me tell you, that went on and on and on,” said Budd, who told how she eventually parted ways with her parents and left the house to embark on her role as one of D.C.’s leading trans advocates.

Among her many endeavors was successful discrimination complaints, including one against a D.C. skating rink and another against the D.C. Jail for discrimination based on gender identity. Budd told how she won in both cases, with strong backing from the D.C. Office of Human Rights. 

Pendarvis, among other things, spoke about how an association with trans women as a young adult helped to shape Pendarvis’s longstanding and award-winning role as co-founder of Team Rayceen Productions, including 10 years as leading host of “The Ask Rayceen Show,” which highlighted topics promoting the LGBTQ and trans community in D.C.

Similar to Budd, Pendarvis has received numerous awards and honors, including recognition from the D.C. City Council, for work as a host and speaker at LGBTQ-related festivals, fundraisers and other events.

“As an activist and host, I have been blessed to do many things,” Pendarvis told the panel discussion gathering. “For many who do not quite know how to identify or ask me to identify, first of all, I’m a human being,” Pendarvis said. “I am a father of five and a mother of many.”

Pendarvis added, “I’m a human being first and foremost, a child of God. And my trans sisters uplifted me first, embraced me first. I came out in a community where our transgender sisters were always on the front line.”

Thomas, 65, told the panel session she is a native of North Brentwood, Md., located just outside D.C., but D.C. became her home since shortly after finishing high school. She began her work in the LGBTQ community in 1989 as a caregiver for people with HIV. She has since worked for the local organizations Us Helping Us, Transgender Health Empowerment, and Terrific, Inc. She currently works for Damien Ministries and its “Trans Specific” programming called Shugg’s Place that, among other things, focuses on providing services for transgender older adults.

She told of her growing up as one of seven children in a family whose mother and father, she said ‘were very loving.” But like other trans kids, Thomas said her parents were uncomfortable over her desire to identify as a girl. A more understanding next door neighbor allowed Thomas to spend time in her house as Thomas helped with household errands.

 “I would go to the store and things like that for her,” Thomas said. “But what’s most important, I could dress as I wanted to in her house. She would give me dresses that I could wear. And I could go up there and put on my dresses and watch TV,” Thomas continued. “And then I would get to take my dress off and go home because mom and daddy wasn’t standing for that.”

At around the age of 10, Thomas said, she was aware of current events and observed that her father was a strong supporter and admirer of Martin Luther King Jr. and his civil rights leadership. “I said you can march with Martin Luther King for everybody else’s rights but you are going to deny me mine,” she recalled telling her father.

Thomas said she initially began patronizing D.C. gay bars after befriending gay men from her high school. A short time later, after realizing that the gay scene was not who she was, she discovered the then D.C. gay drag bars Louis’ and The Rogue and had a chance to meet “people like me.” But she said someone she met at one of those two bars introduced her to the then D.C. Black gay bar called the Brass Rail, where transgender women hung out.

“And I said, oh my God, I am home. This is heaven,” Thomas told the panel gathering. “When I came to the Brass Rail I felt like I was home” as a trans person, Thomas said. “I met so many terrific people.”

She went on to tell about the trials and tribulations of fully transitioning as a trans woman and her growth as a transgender activist with a career dedicated to supporting the trans and LGBTQ community.

Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, spoke briefly at the start of the Talking Trans History panel discussion. He said the mayor’s office was excited to be supporting the Rainbow History Project’s newly launched Trans History Initiative.

“I’m really, really excited to work for a mayor who not only is fighting for things for our community, but truly funding these opportunities,” Bowles said. “This is about you and our trans communities. So, I’m here to listen.”

Slatt also announced at the panel session that Rainbow History Project has a paid job opening for one or more positions to help run the city funded Trans History Initiative. He said information about the job opening for people interested in applying can be obtained through RHP’s website. He said a video recording of the panel session would be posted on the website in a week or two.

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Virginia

Va. House subcommittee kills anti-transgender bill

Committee members unanimously rejected HB 1434

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee on Wednesday killed a bill that would have required transgender students to obtain a court order to update their name in school records.

Equality Virginia in a tweet noted the House Early Childhood/Innovation Subcommittee voted unanimously to kill state Del. Jason Ballard (R-Giles County)’s House Bill 1434.

“This bill served no educational purpose and was entirely unnecessary,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa Rahaman in a statement. “LGBTQ+ students thrive when they are provided safe, affirming and supportive learning spaces, which includes allowing them to go by their chosen name without jumping through legal hoops.” 

“HB 1434 would have run counter to that by creating a hostile school environment,” added Rahaman. “By tabling this bill the subcommittee has sent a strong message that LGBTQ+ students belong in Virginia.” 

“Trans and nonbinary students should be able to go to school and be called by their chosen names, without fear of being outed,” said the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia after the vote.

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