Amendment banning discrimination based on race, color, and nat'l origin is now part of Delaware's Co

Amy Cherry

A constitutional amendment that bans discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, adding language to the state's Equal Rights Amendment, is now law in Delaware.

Senate Bill 31, which requires a two-thirds majority in both the state House and the Senate, twice over two consecutive General Assemblies achieved final passage Thursday, January 28, 2021. The state Senate passed the second leg of the constitutional amendment on January 21, 2021.

Both times, the votes in the state House and Senate were unanimous. Delaware joins a handful of states in passing similar protections.

State House sponsor Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker (D-Wilmington) said she's overjoyed that People of Color in Delaware will now be protected, noting this work began under then-Sen. Karen Peterson in 2016.

“Today, we moved closer to changing the course of history in the State of Delaware by adding People of Color as a protected class to the state’s Constitution.”

The measure's prime sponsor in the state Senate Sen. Darius Brown (D-Wilmington) also touted what's now law.

“With today’s vote in the House, all people – no matter their skin color and no matter their background – are now guaranteed the basic rights and dignity they have been promised for generations,” said Senator Darius Brown, the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 31. “The U.S. Constitution says we are all equal. Various sections of state law say we are all equal. And we know in our hearts that we are equally endowed by our Creator with the same inalienable rights. Now, at long last, the founding document of Delaware will reflect that basic universal fact of equality, once and for all.”

In 2019, lawmakers passed an Equal Rights Amendment to the state Constitution guaranteeing protections against discrimination based on sex.

Constitutional amendments don't require the governor's signature. They officially become a part of the Constitution upon final passage in the General Assembly.

The constitutional amendment was first introduced last summer as part the Delaware Legislative Black Council's Justice for All Agenda which aims to address police brutality and systemic racism in the state. The first leg of the amendment was passed less than a week later in the state Senate.

“In this moment in history, I am overjoyed to create protections for People of Color in the First State, set forth by Our God and the 14thAmendment. Sen. Karen Peterson worked tirelessly to bring about this change in our State in 2016.

I am honored to carry this importance piece of legislation, on which my fellow

St. Elizabeth Alum worked. It is only right that we highlight the importance of equality by setting the example with law that prohibits any type of discrimination,” said Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker, the lead House sponsor of SB 31. “Today, we moved closer to changing the course of history in the State of Delaware by adding People of Color as a protected class to the state’s Constitution.”

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