LGBT rights in Delaware

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Map of USA DE.svg
StatusLegal since 1973
Gender identityTransgender persons allowed to change legal gender
Discrimination protectionsYes, both sexual orientation and gender identity
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsSame-sex marriage since 2013

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Delaware enjoy the same legal protections as heterosexuals. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Delaware since January 1, 1973. On January 1, 2012, civil unions became available to same-sex couples, granting them the "rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities" of married persons.[1] Delaware legalized same-sex marriage on July 1, 2013.

State law bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and the state has legally banned the practice of conversion therapy on minors since July 2018. Delaware is frequently referred to as one of the United States' most LGBT-friendly states.[2] A majority of Delawareans support same-sex marriage.[3]

Laws against same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Delaware repealed its sodomy law in July 1972.[4] The repeal of the sodomy law became effective on January 1, 1973.

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

In March 2011, state senators David P. Sokola and Melanie George introduced a bill to create civil unions in Delaware.[5] It was approved by the Delaware Legislature. Governor Jack Markell signed the legislation on May 11, 2011, and it took effect on January 1, 2012.[6] In 2012, Delaware issued at least 565 civil union licenses, much higher than advocates had anticipated.[7]

In March 2012, Markell said he thought that the legalization of same-sex marriage in Delaware was "inevitable" and would be passed "probably within the next few years".[8] In September, Representative Pete Schwartzkopf said he expected the General Assembly to vote on same-sex marriage in 2013 and that he would support it, but was uncertain of the legislation's prospects.[9] A bill to allow same-sex marriage and convert civil unions to marriages passed the Delaware House by a vote of 23 to 18 on April 23.[10] The Senate approved it by a vote of 12 to 9 on May 7,[11] and that same day the Governor signed the legislation, which went into effect July 1, 2013.[12]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Delaware law permits any unmarried adult or married couple to petition a court for adoption of a child. The first second-parent adoption involving a same-sex couple occurred in October 2001.[13] Since January 2012, same-sex couples in a civil union or marriage have had the same adoption rights as opposite-sex couples.[1][14]

Discrimination protections and hate crime legislation[edit]

The University of Delaware's policy on both discrimination and harassment has included sexual orientation since 1990.[15]

Since 2009, Delaware law has prohibited discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other areas.[16] Since 2013, Delaware law has prohibited discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other areas. Bill SB 97 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived gender identity passed the Senate by a vote of 11-7 on June 6, 2013.[17] The House later passed it by a vote of 24-17 with amendments. The Senate approved the amendments by a vote of 11-9 on June 18,[18][19] and then a day later it was signed into law by the Governor.[20] The law went into effect immediately.[21][22]

Governor Jack Markell issued an executive order on August 11, 2009, that protects employees of state's executive branch departments and agencies from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.[23][24]

Since 2001, Delaware has imposed additional penalties for committing a violent crime motivated by the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation. Since 2013, Delaware has imposed additional penalties for committing a violent crime motivated by the victim's actual or perceived gender identity.

Gender identity and expression[edit]

Transgender people are allowed to change their legal gender in Delaware, requiring only the signed statement of a licensed medical provider to change the marker on their state-issued identification. As of February 11, 2017,[25] sex reassignment surgery is no longer an explicit requirement to obtain an amended birth certificate. Instead, a signed affidavit from a medical provider is required, stating that there has been "surgical, hormonal, psychological or other treatment appropriate for the individual for the purpose of gender transition."[26][27]

In 2015, the Delaware General Assembly passed a law to make it easier for inmates to access and/or change the name on their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity. Previously, inmates could only change their names due to religious beliefs.[28] Democratic Governor Jack Markell signed the bill into law on June 25, 2015.[28] The law became effective immediately.[29]

Since March 26, 2016, Delaware has prohibited discrimination based on gender identity within insurance contracts.[30] This includes sex reassignment surgery.[31][32]

HIV law reform[edit]

In April 2017, the Delaware Legislature passed, and Governor John C. Carney Jr. subsequently signed into law, a bill to allow HIV patients to donate to other HIV patients.[33][34][35] The law went into effect on January 1, 2018.

Conversion therapy[edit]

SB 65, a bill to ban the use of conversion therapy on minors, passed the state Senate by a vote of 12-3 on May 17, 2017, and the state House on June 7, 2018 by a vote of 24-14.[36] The bill was signed into law by the Governor of Delaware, John C. Carney Jr., a month later in July 2018 and went into effect immediately.[37][38][36][39][40] Conversion therapy has a negative effect on the lives of LGBT people, and can lead to low self-esteem, depression and suicide.

Public opinion[edit]

In February 2011, a Public Policy Polling survey found that 48% of Delaware voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 47% were opposed and 5% were not sure.[41] A March 2011 poll by Lake Research Partners showed that 62% in Delaware favored allowing same-sex couples to form civil unions, while 31% were opposed, and 7% were not sure.[42]

A February 2013 poll, conducted by Global Strategy Group, found that 54% of likely voters supported same-sex marriage, 37% were opposed and 8 percent didn't know or declined to answer the question.[43][44]

A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll found that 58% of Delaware residents supported same-sex marriage, while 27% opposed it and 15% were unsure.[3] The same poll also found that 68% of Delawareans supported an anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity, while 21% were opposed.[45] Furthermore, 60% were against allowing businesses to refuse to serve gay and lesbian people due to religious beliefs, while 28% supported allowing such religiously-based refusals.[46]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1973)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1973)
Anti-discrimination laws in all areas Yes (Since 2009 for sexual orientation and since 2013 for gender identity)
Same-sex marriages Yes (Since 2013)
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. civil union) Yes (Since 2012)
Joint and stepchild adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2012)
Gays, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve in the military Yes (Since 2011)
Transgender people allowed to serve in the military No
Right to change legal gender Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
Conversion therapy banned on minors Yes (Since 2018)
Legal recognition of gender diversity beyond the female/male binary No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples Yes
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes/No (1 year deferral; federal policy)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Senate Bill 30, "An Act to Amend Title 13 of the Delaware Code Relating to Civil Unions, General Assembly of Delaware, accessed 4 December 2011.
  2. ^ "The best and worst states for LGBT equality".
  3. ^ a b Public opinion on same-sex marriage by state: Delaware. PRRI – American Values Atlas.
  4. ^ William N. Eskridge, Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861–2003 (NY: Penguin Group, 2008), 201, available online, accessed April 9, 2011
  5. ^ Miller, Beth (March 23, 2011). "Delaware government: Civil unions bill filed in Dover". News Journal. Retrieved April 13, 2011.[dead link]
  6. ^ San Francisco Chronicle: "Delaware governor signs civil unions bill into law," May 11, 2011, accessed May 12, 2011
  7. ^ "Number of civil unions 'exceeded expectations'". Delaware Newszap. 2012-12-30. Archived from the original on 2013-11-06. Retrieved 2013-11-02.
  8. ^ "Delaware governor says gay marriage is "inevitable" in his state". Reuters. March 2, 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2012.
  9. ^ Starkey, Jonathan (September 26, 2012). "Schwartzkopf: gay marriage a "no-brainer"". DelawareOnline. Retrieved December 16, 2012.
  10. ^ "Delaware House Approves Gay Marriage Bill". CBS Philly. April 23, 2013. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  11. ^ Chase, Randall (May 7, 2013). "Delaware to Become 11th State With Gay Marriage". ABC News. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  12. ^ Byrne, Tom (May 7, 2013). "Delaware becomes 11th state to approve same-sex marriage". WDDE. Archived from the original on December 29, 2013. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  13. ^ "Delaware: Gay Couple Adopts". New York Times. October 18, 2001. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
  14. ^ "Delaware Adoption Law". Human Rights Campaign. Archived from the original on February 3, 2013. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
  15. ^ "Delaware: Faculty Broadens University Policy On Harassment". New York Times. December 9, 1990. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
  16. ^ State of Delaware: "145th General Assembly Senate Bill # 121", accessed May 12, 2011
  17. ^ Lavers, Michael K. (June 7, 2013). "Delaware Senate approves transgender rights bill". Washington Blade. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  18. ^ "Del. gender identity protections bill clears final legislative vote – LGBTQ Nation". 2011-04-12. Retrieved 2013-11-02.
  19. ^ "Delaware Governor Markell Signs Transgender Rights Bill into Law | Human Rights Campaign". 2013-06-19. Retrieved 2013-11-02.
  20. ^ Lavers, Michael K. (2013-06-19). "Markell signs transgender rights bill into law : Washington Blade – America's Leading Gay News Source". Retrieved 2013-11-02.
  21. ^ "Del. state House approves transgender protections bill – LGBTQ Nation". 2011-04-12. Retrieved 2013-11-02.
  22. ^ Lavers, Michael K. (June 12, 2013). "Delaware House committee approves transgender rights bill". Washington Blade. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
  23. ^ Hammonds, Deborah (December 9, 2009). "States extend anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity". Employment Law Daily. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
  24. ^ "Markell Expands Efforts to Promote Equality in Delaware, August 11, 2009". State of Delaware. Archived from the original on 2012-12-20. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
  25. ^ Christian, Arli (February 2, 2017). "Victory: Delaware becomes the 14th state to modernize birth certificate gender change requirements". National Center for Transgender Equality. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
  26. ^ 16 Del. Admin. Code 4205 § 10.7 (2018)
  27. ^ Delaware, National Center for Transgender Equality
  28. ^ a b Starkey, Jonathan (2015-06-16). "Transgender name change bill clears in Legislature". The News Journal. Wilmington, Delaware. Retrieved 2016-07-02.
  29. ^ "HB 115 - Delaware 148th General Assembly (2015-2016)". Open States. Retrieved 2016-07-02.
  30. ^ Domestic/Foreign insurers bulletin no. 86
  31. ^ Delaware prohibits limits on transgender health coverage
  32. ^ Timeline of Delaware's LGBT History
  34. ^ Senate Bill 17
  35. ^ Governor Carney Signs Bill Allowing Organ Donation for HIV-Positive Donors and Recipients
  36. ^ a b Senate Bill 65
  37. ^ VICTORY! Delaware Enacts Legislation Protecting LGBTQ Youth from Abusive “Conversion Therapy”
  38. ^ Democrat pushes legislation to ban sexual orientation conversion therapy
  39. ^ Delaware Senate okays conversion therapy ban
  40. ^ BREAKING: Delaware Legislature Sends Anti-“Conversion Therapy” Bill to Gov. Carney’s Desk
  41. ^ "Plurality of Delaware Supports Marriage Equality". Delaware Liberal. February 9, 2011. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  42. ^ "Delaware same-sex partnership support" (PDF). Delaware same-sex partnership. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-21.
  43. ^ "New Poll: 54% of Delaware Voters Support Marriage Equality" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  44. ^ "Poll: At least half of Delaware's voters would support same-sex marriage". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  45. ^ Public opinion on LGBT nondiscrimination laws by state: Delaware. PRRI – American Values Atlas.
  46. ^ Public opinion on religiously based refusals to serve gay and lesbian people by state: Delaware. PRRI – American Values Atlas.

External links[edit]