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Congratulations, Delaware!
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 05/07/13
Last updated on: 05/08/13
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On May 7, 2013, the Delaware Senate passed marriage equality legislation on a 12-9 vote and sent it to Governor Markell for his signature, thus making Delaware the 11th state to authorize same-sex marriage. The bill passed the Delaware House on April 23, 2013.

As DelawareOnline reports, visitors in the gallery erupted into cheers and applause following the vote in which one Republican joined eleven Democrats in passing the bill.

The marriage equality bill was introduced in the Democrat-controlled legislature last month, barely a year after the state began recognizing same-sex civil unions.

While same-sex couples in civil unions had the same rights and responsibilities in state law as they will in marriage, supporters of the marriage equality legislation argued that same-sex couples deserve the dignity and respect afforded to married couples. Moreover, proponents also noted that if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars married gay couples from receiving federal benefits, civil unions would not provide protections or tax benefits under federal law to same-sex couples in Delaware.

The highlight of the dispiriting debate in which opponents of same-sex marriage repeatedly quoted the Bible was the speech of Senator Karen Peterson. Revealing that she and her partner of 24 years had entered into a civil union last year, she told opponents of the bill, "If my happiness somehow demeans or diminishes your marriage, you need to work on your marriage."

The bill goes into effect on July 1, 2013. Hence, Delaware will actually begin offering same-sex marriages earlier than Rhode Island, which passed its marriage equality bill on May 2, 2013. The Rhode Island legislation takes effect on August 1, 2013.

Under Delaware's new law, no new civil unions will be performed in the state after July 1, and existing civil unions will be converted to marriages over the next year. The legislation also states that same-sex unions established in other states will be treated the same as marriages under Delaware law.

The Delaware marriage equality bill was strongly supported by the state's two U.S. Senators and its sole member of the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as Vice-President Joe Biden, Attorney General Beau Biden, and Governor Jack Markell.

Upon news of the bill's passage, U.S. Senator Chris Coons said in a statement that the bill "ushers in a new era of equality in our state."

"This is a truly historic day for our state," Coons said. "Today's vote was about dignity, respect, and basic human fairness for our neighbors. Every Delawarean deserves access to the full rights and responsibilities of marriage, no matter their sexual orientation. The passage of HB 75 ushers in a new era of equality in our state and marks an important moment in our state's history. I am incredibly proud."

After the vote, Governor Markell said, "I think this is the right thing for Delaware." While posing for pictures with supporters outside his legislative office, he added, "It took an incredible team effort."

Declaring "I do not intend to make any of you wait one moment longer," the Governor promptly signed the bill into law.

In the video below, Governor Markell signs the bill.

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