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Note: This page is part of the Governor's News Archive, which holds press releases from January 2009 through September 2011. Since October 2011, recent news can be found in the Newsroom and archived news is available at

July 02, 2009

Markell Signs Landmark Equal Rights Law

Delawareans guaranteed protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation   

REHOBOTH BEACH – Capping years of work by advocates of diversity and tolerance, Gov. Jack Markell signed legislation Thursday that outlaws discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation.

“This is an historic day in Delaware,” Markell said. “Discrimination in any form is wrong, and I am proud to be signing a law that guarantees civil rights for all Delawareans. Today’s signing is a triumph for the hundreds of Delawareans who worked endlessly to increase equality.”  

Markell signed Senate Bill 121 into law during a ceremony at CAMP Rehoboth, a nonprofit community group that promotes “cooperation and understanding among all people.” Specifically, the law adds sexual orientation to the state's anti-discrimination statute, which already bans discrimination based on traits such as gender, age, religion, nationality and handicap.  Discrimination is prohibited in areas such as employment, housing, insurance and public accommodations.

“We’ve reached an important milestone in our efforts to guarantee equality for all Delawareans,” said Drewry Fennell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The Governor is able to sign this bill today because of the energy and perseverance of so many elected officials and their constituents, who worked for over a decade to pass this bill.”

 Said Sen. David Sokola, D-Newark, who introduced SB 121: “Even though this has been a long journey, I’m thrilled that we’ve come this far and that the Governor is signing this legislation. We know the signing of this bill, momentous as it is, will not end discrimination. But the signing of this bill means such practices will no longer be done with the blessing of the state.”

 House Majority Leader Rep. Peter C. Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, has been an ardent supporter of the legislation, sponsoring several previous versions of the anti-discrimination bill.

 “Supporters of this legislation have been waiting a long time for this day, and now that day is finally here,” said Rep. Schwartzkopf, whose district includes CAMP Rehoboth. “I have been on board with this bill since the day I came into the General Assembly seven years ago, but many others have been fighting for equality much longer. Some have waited a lifetime for this day. People will no longer be allowed to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation. This is something that is long overdue and very much welcomed in our state.”

 Representative William A. Oberle Jr., R-Beecher’s Lot, one of the prime House sponsors of Senate Bill 121, was the original sponsor of the legislation when it was first introduced more than 10 years ago in the General Assembly. 

 Rep. Oberle stated, “This has been a more than 10-year journey to get to this point and I am thrilled to be witnessing the enactment of this historic bill.  There were a number of advocates who were instrumental over the years in getting us to this point, and I would like to extend a special thanks to my colleagues for passing this bill and to Governor Markell for signing it into law.  My appreciation also goes out to former Governor Minner, who was the first Governor to publicly support this legislation.  I have always felt that this legislation was the right thing to do, by helping to protect individuals from being discriminated against simply because of his or her sexual orientation.  I am proud to be taking part in today’s ceremony.” 


Last Updated: Monday, 05-Aug-2013 15:25:17 EDT
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