Delaware mulls gay anti-discrimination bill

03.11.2009 11:23am EDT

(Dover, Delaware) Legislation was introduced in the Delaware legislature Wednesday that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment and housing.

Delaware already bars discrimination based on age, religion, gender, race, marital status and physical handicap.  LGBT rights groups have tried for a decade to have the law updated to include sexual orientation.

“This legislation is long overdue. This is the fifth time it has been introduced in the past nine years and we have passed it in the House three times,” said Senate Majority Leader Peter Schwartzkopf (D) in a statement.

“This is 2009. If the past several months have taught us anything, it’s that Americans are much more tolerant and accepting of others now than ever before.”

The bill however, does not include transgender protections.  It also exempts religious groups – even if they receive state funding. It also states that employers would not bed required to offer health insurance, pension or other benefits to same-sex couples.

A spokesperson for Gov. Jack Markell said the governor had not seen the bill but that he has long supported “eliminating discrimination in all its forms.”

In the past Senate rules have allowed bills to die without coming to a vote in what was called a desk-drawer veto.  The rules were changed this year and Schwartzkopf said he is hopeful the measure will be passed.

Under the new rules, bills must be considered in committees within 12 legislative days of their filing. Still, Republicans and a number of Democrats have voiced their opposition.

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