Fairness for All: It's Time to Pass Gender Identity Nondiscrimination

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 bill, which is pending before the Delaware House of Representatives and has already passed the Senate, would add the term "gender identity," which means a person's deeply held sense of their gender, to our state's hate crimes and employment, insurance, public accommodations, and housing nondiscrimination laws. It affords transgender Delawareans the same legal protections already afforded to everyone on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, among other characteristics. In short, this bill will ensure that transgender Delawareans are treated fairly.

As Governor, my mission has been to help build a Delaware that is competitive in the global economy and welcoming and safe here at home. I know that we can only create jobs if we successfully do both. The best workplace environment is one that judges each of us on our merits, not on our identities. This is reflected in the more than 70 percent of Fortune 100 companies that have policies that protect employees on the basis of their "gender identity" and the nearly 200 Delaware businesses that have signed a statement of support for the passage of this law. They know that to get ahead, we need to harness the skills and talents of everyone, including our transgender employees and job seekers.

While this law will benefit our state and our economy, it also goes to the core of who we are as a community. My young friend Sarah, who just graduated from college in Washington, D.C. and happens to be transgender, has told the First Lady and me about her fear of returning to Delaware, the State she loves, without basic protections. A friend of mine, whose daughter also happens to be transgender and has faced bullying at her school in another state, has written to me that she wants to move back to Delaware with her family, but has decided not to because our laws would not protect her child and family from discrimination. There are countless more transgender Delawareans who live in fear of or face discrimination on a daily basis.

As a lifelong Delawarean, I'm convinced this is not the Delaware I know and love. As a father, I know that all our children should be treated fairly. And as Governor, I'm determined to make Delaware a safe and welcoming state for all to live, work, and raise a family.

It's time we join the 16 other states, Washington, D.C., and over 170 cities and counties across the country that have passed similar laws. It's time our law guarantees that our transgender relatives and neighbors can work hard, participate in our communities, and live their lives with dignity and in safety. It's time that we pass the Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act of 2013.

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