Guest Opinion: Delaware needs action as well as pride


Will McVay is the executive director of Non-Partisan Delaware, a ballot-qualified, Delaware-centered political advocacy and community service organization.

I remember visiting Legislative Hall often during the debate on the civil union law that finally passed in 2011 and collecting signatures at the Delaware State Fair for full marriage equality when Democratic legislators still opposed it. I remember when, in 2013, Delaware became the 11th state to repeal a decades-old ban on same-sex marriages.

A lot has changed since then. I have a beautiful 6-year-old daughter now. I don’t have as much time to hang around Legislative Hall. I’m even more committed to ensuring that Delaware is a safe and supportive place for her to grow up, no matter who she loves, no matter who she becomes or how she expresses any part of her identity.

As long as she lives true to herself and isn’t hurting anyone else, she should feel safe, supported and valued, and she should learn by example to extend that to others, even as awareness of the irrational hatred spreading in parts of this country comes into the focus of her young mind.

Dover’s 2023 Delaware Pride Festival is being held June 10 at Legislative Mall. While the General Assembly’s solid Democratic majority can be safely relied upon not to allow any anti-LGBTQ legislation to move forward, that’s not good enough.

There’s more to be done to offer support for, and a safe haven to, members of the LGBTQ community fleeing hostile states to protect their livelihoods, their families and, in some cases, their very lives.

The Democratic Party has made remarkable progress in reorienting its caucus toward tolerance and acceptance since struggling internally with basic rights like marriage equality. They elected Sarah McBride, D-Wilmington, as the first openly transgender state senator, as well as electing the first openly gay man, Rep. Eric Morrison, D-Glasgow, in 2020 and returning them both in 2022.

They’re joined by Sen. Marie Pinkney, D-Bear, who identifies as gay and follows in the footsteps of Sen. Karen Peterson, who came out in 2013 and has the first same-sex marriage recorded in Delaware.

These legislators have been bold advocates for LGBTQ rights — often to the chagrin of their own caucus — while also being responsive and accessible to their constituents, faithful advocates of their principles and steadfast in their support for the rights of every Delawarean to “live their best life,” free from the threat of bigoted violence, discrimination or mistreatment.

Rep. Morrison’s bill to eliminate the possible use of an “LGBTQ panic” defense as an excuse for the commission of heinous crimes against marginalized people is a prime example of legislation the House of Representatives should bring to a floor vote and pass before this session breaks the end of June.

Pride Month is the perfect opportunity for the next level of commitment from Delaware’s policymakers, across the political spectrum, to stand apart from these troubling national trends, to become a safe place of refuge for our LGBTQ siblings and their allies in other states finding themselves persecuted, erased and, in the words of some, “eradicated.”

This is a call on the General Assembly, county councils, municipal governments, school boards and regulatory agencies to go the other way.

  • Establish policies, like in the Caesar Rodney School District, that protect academic freedom and trust teachers to have the judgment and experience to address difficult subjects with nuance, or like the transgender policy in Red Clay that safeguards all students. Clarify those policies to assure students, families and staff that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity will not be tolerated.
  • Codify access to gender-affirming care and medical privacy, and assure professionals that following commonly accepted best practices from reputable professional organizations will be protected against frivolous lawsuits and contrived professional complaints.
  • Offer expedited licensing for professionals who have had their credentials unjustly suspended or restricted in other states and remove other barriers to entry for medical and other professionals.

The loss of educated professionals who generate tax revenues from states that want to chase them out can be Delaware’s gain in the midst of our chronic shortage of health care professionals.

It’s all well and good for Delaware to be “safe” for the LGBTQ community after so many years of fighting, but is it really enough to be “safe” ourselves? That’s not the lesson I want my kid to learn. That’s not pride.

Shouldn’t we instead become a beacon of tolerance, where those who wish to live in peace may do so, no matter who they are or what form their families take?

Those are the kinds of neighbors that would give Delaware pride.

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