Just weeks after passing a marriage equality bill, Delaware has made law an anti-discrimination bill that will protect its trans citizens.
The legislation outlaws discrimination on the basis of gender identity in the employment, housing and public accommodations sectors and also covers discrimination in public works, contracting and insurance.
The act also amends the state’s hate crimes law to make it trans inclusive.
Governor Jack Marknell signed the law on Wednesday. Prior to this, he explained his support for the legislation saying that discriminating is “not the Delaware way”:
Kindness, decency, and fairness are the values that Delawareans live by on a daily basis. They are the values I have encountered in towns and cities throughout Delaware. We look out for one another in this state of neighbors. Yet, for years, we have left one group of our friends, relatives, and colleagues behind. And it is past time to make things right.
Transgender Delawareans are not afforded basic legal protections from discrimination and violence that every person deserves. Under our State’s laws, it is currently legal to fire someone, deny them housing, or throw them out of a restaurant simply because they are transgender. This is simply not the Delaware way and it is time our laws reflect our values. This is one of the many reasons why I am proud to support the Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act of 2013.
This makes Delaware the 17th state to include gender identity and expression in state nondiscrimination laws and comes only a month after Delaware passed a marriage equality bill.
Here are five reasons why the bill matters:
1. The Act Makes Gender Identity and Expression Protections Explicit
While there is scope for gender identity protections under other state and federal laws that ban discrimination on grounds of sex or gender, without specific legislation enumerating transgender citizens, such discrimination claims often rely on the discretion of judges who may not recognize gender identity and expression in this way.
2. The Act Will Help Fight Pervasive Joblessness
Information on the severity of anti-trans discrimination was until recently scarce, but the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s groundbreaking Injustice At Every Turn trans discrimination survey, which was released in 2011, found that trans people are nearly four times more likely to have a total household income of less than $10,000 a year compared to the general population.
Moreover, trans people suffer double the rate of unemployment, with 26% reporting that they had lost their job due to being transgender or gender non-conforming, while a staggering 50% said they were harassed in the workplace.
3. The Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act Says No to Harassment
Around 53% of respondents said in the Injustice At Every Turn survey that they had been verbally harassed or “disrespected” while using public accommodations, such as in hotels, restaurants, buses, airports and government agencies.
The survey also found that respondents face incredibly high rates of violence, including sexual violence, and all round poorer levels of health.
The Act and its hate crimes provision clearly sets out that such harassment and violence against trans people is not to be tolerated.
4. Delaware’s Gender Identity Act Sends the Message that Trans People Deserve Equality
A more recent national Pew Research survey released this month that aimed at assessing the various issues America’s LGBT community faces notes that, while the gay community feels it is gaining acceptance, only 3% of survey respondents feel there is acceptance of trans people.
While nondiscrimination laws cannot of themselves help change this, such laws do serve to set a tone that anti-trans discrimination is not acceptable and in turn can foster a change in general attitudes.
5. Delaware’s Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act is an Example for Other States
With such horrifying statistics the need for the Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act and for state and federal laws like it, such as the trans-inclusive federal Employment Non Discrimination Act, become obvious, and even more important to improve the inequality trans Americans face.
As such, Delaware’s encompassing protections should serve as an example for other states that lack these protections and encourage those with bills pending, like New York, to take action now.
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