Del. Equal Rights Amendment Could Expand

Delaware’s Equal Rights Amendment could be further amended to ensure that the rights of Delawareans are equally protected regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Thursday, state lawmakers and advocates gathered at Legislative Hall to unveil a proposal (HB 199) to add protections to the Delaware Constitution’s equal rights clause. Delaware would become the first state in the nation to constitutionally protect LGBTQ+ residents from discrimination.

“In my first term as a state representative, we were still debating whether gay and lesbian people should be protected from discrimination. We finally settled that question and followed up by legalizing same-sex marriage and banning discrimination based on gender identity. In 2018, we passed an Equal Rights Amendment that guaranteed equal protection regardless of sex, and in January this year, we passed another amendment enshrining race, color and national origin in our Constitution,” House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear said. “But our work is not done. The legislation we announce today represents an ongoing, generational effort to ensure that equality is the law of the land in Delaware, and that no legal barrier stands in the way of fair treatment for all people, without regard to any of the characteristics that make us who we are.”

The Delaware Equal Rights Amendment was passed in 2018 to guarantee equal protection regardless of sex. Earlier this year another amendment was added to add race, color and national origin to Constitutional guarantees of equal rights. A Constitutional amendment must pass in an identical version in two consecutive General Assembly sessions

“Today is a historic day to be a person with a disability and a historic day to be LGBTQ, because today we join together to rededicate ourselves to equality and to fulfil our responsibility as Delawareans to lead this country toward a fuller understanding of We The People,” State Senator Sarah McBride, D-Wilmington / Claymont said. McBride is the highest-ranking transgender elected official in U.S. history.

“Across our communities, there are Delawareans who fear that who they are and what they want to be are mutually exclusive. There are still neighbors who feel unseen, unheard, and unprotected. And we can help change that,” McBride added. “Equal protection under the law is the foundation of our democracy, and today we come together live up to that promise, to right the wrongs of the past, to continue our long march toward liberty and justice for all and to send a life-affirming and life-saving message to thousands of young people across our state that they are seen, they are valued, and they are loved.”

“Especially as one of the first three openly LGBTQ+ individuals ever elected to the Delaware State Legislature, I’m proud to sponsor this legislation helping to ensure equality for and prevent discrimination against Delawareans regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Representative Eric Morrison, D-Glasgow, said. Morrison is the first openly gay person elected to the House of Representatives. “Not only is the legislation itself important, but it sends a strong message to LGBTQ+ Delawareans that we are of value – especially vulnerable young people and people who are not ‘out.’ It’s also very important that this legislation protects individuals with disabilities – and as an extension, their loved ones.”

“Delaware has made tremendous progress in recent years in recognizing that people like myself not only exist, but also that our hopes, dreams and basic human rights are every bit as valid as our neighbors,” Senator Marie Pinkney, D-New Castle said. Pinkney is the first openly lesbian Black woman ever elected to the Delaware General Assembly. “But you don’t need to look any further than last week’s Senate vote on acknowledging Pride Month to know we are still not fully accepted, and in some cases barely tolerated. Despite the hatred and fear of violence that many of us are forced to live with each and every day, this amendment will go a long way toward establishing, once and for all, that we are and always will be equal in the eyes of the law here in Delaware.”