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House approves transgender anti-discrimination bill

Delaware is poised to become the 17th state in the country to cover transgender people in its anti-discrimination codes.

House lawmakers passed the measure 24-17 Tuesday after a two-hour debate over its implications for business owners and bathroom accommodations.

House sponsor Rep. Bryon Short (D- Claymont) amended the bill to clarify some language and explicitly outline that businesses aren’t required to provide reasonable accommodations, but may do so if they wish.

Opponents of the bill at Leg Hall have dubbed it the ‘Bathroom Bill,’ saying police would see an uptick in sexual crimes in those private areas.

Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley), the lone Republican to vote for the bill, says that label is nothing more than a red herring.

“We should have an intelligent, adult conversation about the facts and the realities, not try to say things that are going to fear or scare people into something that’s not true,” he said. “A ‘Bathroom Bill’ came out as a sales product to maybe have this bill defeated.”

He says he did have concerns about the bill but that was before it was amended.

Delaware Family Policy Council President Nicole Theis argued that the law would establish a dangerous precedent.

“I understand that nobody wants to treat anyone unfairly. That’s been established,” she said. “But I think that we’re in dangerous territory when we say, ‘If we don’t add it to the state’s anti-discrimination law, then we must be discriminating or me treating someone unfairly.’”

House Minority Whip Deborah Hudson (R-Fairthorne) says she’s concerned that the bill will put an undue burden on employers.

“I feel that organizations and small businesses in Delaware – or even some of the large ones – haven’t had a chance to discuss this in terms of their personnel department and are not necessarily ready to accept the changes that come with it,” she said.

Because the Senate approved the bill without any amendments, it now heads back across the hall for final approval as early as Wednesday.

Governor Jack Markell (D) promised to sign the bill should it reach his desk.