Gov. Jack Markell signed the Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act yesterday, which ensures equal legal protections to trans individuals in the state of Delaware. Prior to this bill, it had been perfectly legal to fire someone or deny them housing on the basis of the person's gender identity.
After the signing, Markell had a special message for a young woman in the room. "I especially want to thank my friend Sarah McBride, an intelligent and talented Delawarean who happens to be transgender," Markell announced. "Her tireless advocacy for passage of this legislation has made a real difference for all transgender people in Delaware." At the age of just 22, Sarah McBride is one of the most important voices in the state of Deleware for transgender rights.
McBride came out to her parents in 2011 after realizing she could not be completely happy as she was. "I thought if I could make being Tim worthwhile for other people, it would be worthwhile for me to be Tim. A life in pursuit of position or power is not a life well-lived or in service to others," McBride said. After she completed her term as student body president at American University, McBride published a personal column entitled "The Real Me" in the student-run newspaper. She ended the piece with the line, "I now know that my dreams and my identity are only mutually exclusive if I don't try."
BuzzFeed caught up with Sarah McBride after the signing, and here's what she had to say about the experience:
The last six months have reinforced my belief that government can be a force for good and that reason and compassion will win the day. I'm reminded of the Ghandi quote, "first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
For my family, this was one of the hardest things we've ever done, but also one of the most rewarding. Throughout this process, I've learned a lot, gained new friends, and have witnessed my parents demonstrate to the entire state what loving parents look like.
The people who deserve the most credit are the allies who worked around the clock to pass this bill, the transgender Delawareans who risked discrimination and overcame fear to come out in order to help pass this bill, and the courageous legislators who have pushed Delaware forward. It was incredibly special watching Gov. Markell, one of my role models and mentors, sign this historic legislation into law.
The last two months in Delaware have been historic. Between the passage of marriage equality and gender identity protections, Delaware is now one of the most LGBT-inclusive states in the nation. With Lisa Goodman and Mark Purpura in the lead, Equality Delaware's work should serve as a national model for effective advocacy for the entire LGB and T community.
This bill would not have passed without the courageous leadership of our two prime sponsors, Sen. [Margaret Rose] Henry and Rep. Bryon Short, House and Senate leadership, Attorney Gen. [Beau] Biden, and Gov. Markell. The 35 legislators who voted for this bill have stood up and proclaimed that transgender people deserve to be treated with dignity and fairness just like everyone else. I couldn't be more grateful for their support.
This evening, with Gov. Markell's signature, transgender Delawareans now know that they are not alone and that their government is an ally. The passage of this bill will help to stamp out discrimination in our state and gives hope to countless people currently struggling. The Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act ensures that all transgender people are judged on our merits and not on our identities.
Watch a video of Rep. Bryon Short discussing the bill here.