Letter to the Editor: General Assembly should be more diverse

Although we’ve made significant progress, the Delaware State Legislature overwhelmingly does not look like the people it serves. Women make up 51.6% of Delawareans, but only 24.2% of legislators. African-Americans compose 23% of Delawareans, but only 12.9% of legislators. 9.5% of our neighbors are Hispanic, but only 1.6% of them are legislators. Delaware’s Asian-American and LGBT populations stand at 4.1% and 4.5% respectively, with no representation in Dover. Overall, 75.8% of Delaware’s legislators are white, heterosexual men.

Also, the current and former professions of Delaware legislators over-represent specific occupations and a certain socioeconomic class. Many legislators are lawyers, retired police officers, business owners and executives, and realtors. Where are the blue-collar workers? Where are the most economically vulnerable among us? Where are the rainbow of faces we see each day in our places of work and worship, in our stores and on our streets, in our neighborhoods and newspapers?

As a gay man who has fought hard for Delaware’s LGBT community for 27 years, lack of diversity in our State Legislature is personal for me. In the body’s 243-year history, no openly LGBT candidate has ever been elected to it.

A dearth of diversity among our state legislators also contributes to bigoted words and actions. For example, in 2017, Sens. David Lawson and Colin Bonini walked out on a Muslim prayer opening the Senate. Upon his return to the Senate floor, Sen. Lawson called the prayer “despicable.” He said, “We just heard from the Quran, which calls for our demise. I fought for this country, not to be damned by someone that comes in here and prays to their God for our demise.”

Before adjourning for the day, Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride declared that “to criticize the sacred prayer of another religion from the floor of the Senate strikes me as antithetical to everything we ought to stand for as lawmakers. And for our guests today to be branded as anti-American when our First Amendment of our country’s Constitution explicitly guarantees the freedom of religion is both ironic and deeply sad to me.” Two years later, Sen. Lawson claimed that Muslim Delawareans want to “subvert our Constitution.”

I am a frequent critic of identity politics. No one should be elected based simply on their gender, age, race, sexual orientation, religion, or lack thereof. We must elect candidates with histories of community service and solid policy proposals. I don’t want anyone voting for me for solely because of my sexual orientation.

Eric Morrison
Newark

Mr. Morrison is a Democratic candidate for the Delaware State House of Representatives for the 27th District, in the Newark/Bear/Glasgow area.

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