Morrison: We still need Pride Month


Eric Morrison, a Democrat, serves the Delaware House of Representatives’ 27th District, which includes parts of Newark, Bear and Middletown.

In 2020, I was one of the first openly LGBTQ+ individuals to be elected to the Delaware General Assembly in its 244-year history, along with Sens. Sarah McBride, D-Wilmington, and Marie Pinkney, D-Bear. Then, in 2022, we elected two more openly LGBTQ+ legislators, Reps. DeShanna Neal, D-Wilmington, and Kerri Evelyn Harris, D-Dover. In just two election cycles, we went from no openly LGBTQ+ state legislators to five out of 61. This is important because, though we have many wonderful allies in Dover, having a seat at the table matters and so does representation.

During my four years in office, I’ve worked hard to pass legislation supporting the LGBTQ+ community. Partnering with Sen. Pinkney and the attorney general’s office, we updated and modernized our hate crimes statute. My House Bill 142 banned the LGBTQ+ “panic defense” in Delaware. The defense has been used in many states, including Delaware. It is a legal strategy asking a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is to blame for a defendant’s violent act perpetrated upon an LGBTQ+ individual, up to and including murder.

This year, I’ve introduced legislation adding asexuality and pansexuality to the definition of “sexual orientation” throughout the Delaware Code. Individuals identifying with these sexual orientations deserve protection in important areas like housing and employment just as much as individuals who identify as heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual. They also deserve to know that they are recognized and respected. I’ve also introduced legislation to add a “Pride” license plate to the long list of special license plates that Delawareans can purchase, with part of the proceeds benefiting a nonprofit.

I’ve accomplished things to help the LGBTQ+ community outside of legislation. I’ve worked to increase funding for programs that benefit LGBTQ+ youth. I’ve worked to phase in having all public single-stall restrooms be gender-neutral with inclusive signage. I’ve worked with the Department of Correction to assist individual transgender inmates and to acquire a consultant to advise about transgender inmate health needs. I’ve met with the members of multiple Delaware LGBTQ+ student groups to encourage them, answer their questions and explain my role as a state representative. Each year I’ve been in office, I’ve passed General Assembly resolutions declaring June as “LGBTQ+ Pride Month” in Delaware.

Some people say that Pride Month is no longer necessary. I personally know otherwise. On my social media posts, I am frequently called a pedophile and a groomer, and told that I should stay away from children. I am called a pervert and accused of poisoning the minds of young people. I am accused of “recruiting” young people into a “deviant lifestyle.” I have even received threats to my physical safety. I’ve grown a thick skin since I came out at age 18, but I worry about the young people and the closeted people who see such comments, which may reinforce their fears and insecurities that there is something wrong with them, that they are not “good enough” and that they are undeserving of having their dignity recognized.

Looking across America, we know that we still need Pride Month. In each of the last seven years, the number of hate crimes perpetrated against LGBTQ+ Americans has risen. This is especially true for transgender members of our community, in particular Black transgender women. This year, hundreds of pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation have been introduced, including here in Delaware. Also, LGBTQ+ youth, compared to their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts, have much higher rates of mental health and substance abuse issues, suicide and suicide attempts, self-harm and homelessness. Female impersonators (and I was one for almost 25 years) continue to come under attack in ridiculous ways.

A criticism I hear sometimes is that, as a state representative, I only represent fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community. But the facts prove otherwise. I began this legislative session with 18 pieces of legislation, and only two of them are directly related to the LGBTQ+ community. When it comes to helping constituents, I do not ask about their sexual orientation or gender identity. I am present at all kinds of events inside and outside the district. I speak with young people frequently about various issues unrelated to the LGBTQ+ community. But make no mistake: It took us 244 years to have a seat at the table in Dover, and because of that, many things that need to be accomplished for Delaware’s LGBTQ+ community have gone undone. I will not apologize for addressing these issues each year I am in office.

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