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Delaware Senate Democrats

Delaware Senate passes bill to update definitions of groups protected from discrimination

June 23, 2021

DOVER – The Delaware Senate passed legislation Wednesday to update the definitions of sexual orientation, gender identity and disability used in Delaware Code to make them more inclusive and consistent with federal law.

House Bill 224 is almost identical to House Bill 155, which passed the House in April and was released from the Senate Elections & Government Affairs Committee in May. HB 224, which corrects an omission in the title of HB 155, was passed by the House on June 17.

“The bill number might be different, but the content is the same, and so is the importance of having our state recognize the humanity and self-expression of all Delawareans,” said Sen. Kyle Evans Gay, D-Talleyville, the prime Senate sponsor of HB 224.

“This legislation acknowledges that Delaware Code should reflect our understanding of sexual orientation, gender identity and disabilities,” she said. “Bringing the legal definitions of these terms in line with federal law also will provide added protections for several protected classes of Delawareans.”

Sexual orientation was defined in the state’s non-discrimination laws in 2009 as “exclusively means heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality.” HB 224 would remove “exclusively means” from various sections of code and replace the phrase with “includes” to be more inclusive regarding how sexual orientation is defined. 

HB 224 also would remove from the code part of the 2013 definition of gender identity, by deleting a requirement that one’s identity be “demonstrated by consistent and uniform assertion of the gender identity,” that it is “sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity,” and that it could not be “asserted for any improper purpose.”

“Casting doubt on an individual’s gender identity is never acceptable,“ Sen. Gay said. “Delawareans should never be asked to prove that their core identity isn’t being asserted for an improper purpose.”

The bill also would amend the non-discrimination laws to update the definition of disability, making it consistent throughout the Delaware Code.

“Our code is a living, breathing document that needs to grow and evolve with the times. What was written and considered accurate or acceptable years ago might not be so today,” said Rep. Kendra Johnson, D-Bear, the lead sponsor of the bill. “Our laws should reflect the world in which we live today, and strive to be more inclusive and accepting. That is what we are doing with HB 224; we are making sure our laws are updated for 2021 and acknowledge the reality of our society. I’m grateful that our colleagues have seen fit to pass this important update into law.”

HB 224 now heads to Gov. John Carney for his signature.