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Transgender anti-discrimination bill advances in Senate

A bill adding gender identity to Delaware’s anti-discrimination and hate crime statutes passed out of a Senate committee Wednesday with little questioning from legislators

The proposal would prevent employers and business owners from refusing to hire or provide service to a person who identifies as transgender.

More than a dozen people testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee including a few transgender individuals who said that they live in fear of discrimination without these protections.

Most of the people present at the hearing spoke in favor of the bill, saying it extends basic rights to a community that has gone without them for years.

Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington East) sponsored the bill. She says she doesn’t foresee as much Senate opposition to this proposal as there was for a recent same-sex marriage bill.

“It’s a fairness issue and it’s an issue of discrimination that we want to stop. So I think once our colleagues realize and hear some of the testimony tomorrow or Tuesday – whenever the bill goes on the agenda – that we will have enough votes to pass it,” she said.

The two main players from last month’s same-sex marriage battle – Equality Delaware and the Delaware Family Policy Council – once again are on opposite sides of the issue.

Nicole Theis, president of the Delaware Family Policy Council, says she’s concerned that this bill will have unintended consequences, like allowing criminals into restrooms and locker rooms.

“There’s nothing in this legislation that would stop that,” she said. “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 says she can’t cite any specific examples of that happening elsewhere, but that it’s still a concern.

“Just because it hasn’t happened yet does that mean we still enact bad policy? Just because an accident hasn’t happened at an intersection, do we still remove all the traffic signs and traffic lights?” she explained.

The bill is expected to get a full floor vote on Thursday.