Delaware passed a bill on Tuesday that paves the way for the state to become the 11th to allow gay marriage. The bill’s approval came after a lengthy debate in the state Senate, along with the surprise votes of two lawmakers.
Governor Jack Markell signed the bill on the main stairs in the lobby of Legislative Hall just 30 minutes after the 12-9 Senate vote. Senators Bethany Hall-Long (Democrat) and Catherine Cloutier (Republican) provided the yeses needed to swing votes in favor of the bill.
Cloutier was the only Republican yes vote in the Senate and one of just two in the General Assembly. Thanks to the new bill, Delaware will allow same sex marriage starting July 1.
The law will also provide a mechanism for converting the existing same-sex civil unions established in the state into marriage. After the vote, Markell commented, “I think this is the right thing for Delaware. It took an incredible team effort.”
Rights activists and their supporters erupted in cheers and applause following the vote for same sex marriage. The bill was first introduced in the Democrat-controlled legislature in April, just one year after the state started recognizing same-sex civil unions.
Opponents across the state argued against the bill, saying it would destroy a centuries-old institution that is also a building block of society.
While the gay marriage law in Delaware doesn’t give same-sex couples any more rights than they would have in civil unions, supporters argued that same-sex couples should have the dignity and respect given to married couples.
They noted as well that, should the US Supreme Court strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, civil unions would not be granted protections or tax benefits under federal law.
While the bill does allow gay marriage in Delaware, it does not force clerics to perform same-sex marriages that conflict with their religious views. However, business owners who refuse to provide marriage-related services would be subject to discrimination claims.
[Image via ShutterStock]