Delaware Passes Civil Unions Bill

BY Julie Bolcer

April 14 2011 7:55 AM ET

Another witness, family law attorney
Glynis Gibson, expressed concern for the law’s potential impact on
children. She said the measure would give preference to a stepparent
over a biological parent in some instances.

“This legislation is
new and it is world-changing. It is life-changing,” she said. “And we
need to think about what we’re doing when we are elevating parties to a
civil union to the same level as a stepparent.”

Goodman, an attorney as well president of Equality Delaware, responded to Napier in her testimony.

“It’s
hard to know where to start with those since I don’t really think those
were legal comments,” she said. “This bill does not change the
definition of marriage under Delaware law.”

Goodman was asked
whether Equality Delaware planned to use the civil unions law as a
“jumping-off point” to push for marriage, but the question was ruled out
of order.

According to HRC, five states currently have laws
providing an expansive form of state-level relationship recognition for
gay and lesbian couples without offering marriage. States offering such
civil unions and domestic partnerships include California, Nevada, New
Jersey, Oregon, and Washington. Earlier this year, Hawaii and Illinois
adopted civil union laws that will take effect in June for Illinois and
in January 2012 for Hawaii.









 

Evan
Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, said in a
statement after the Delaware vote, “Civil union provides a welcome
measure of protections to
same-sex couples and their families, but is no substitute for the
freedom to marry and the full measure of respect, clarity, and
responsibilities that only marriage brings. A separate legal status
designed to both give and withhold, civil union will afford more
families in Delaware important legal protections while unfairly and
unnecessarily denying them the dignity and respect they deserve and the
full measure of security they need. States that have created civil
union have found that it falls far short of marriage with all its
tangible and intangible significance in our lives, and documented that
civil union simply does not work to fully protect families or clarify
responsibilities for businesses and others. Many states — Connecticut,
New Hampshire, and even Vermont, which first created civil
union — have since pushed past civil union to marriage itself,
recognizing the inadequacy and unfairness of a separate and unequal
status."

 
Despite public opinion
and legislative momentum, Goodman said Wednesday that nothing was being
taken for granted in the run-up to the final vote. The legislative
session in nearby Maryland ended this week without a marriage equality
victory after the bill passed the senate, predicted to be the more
challenging chamber, only to be yanked in the house when support fell
short following a reenergized campaign from religious conservatives.

“I have had Maryland in the forefront of my mind since this
happened,” said Goodman. “We have been redoubling our efforts. We have
essentially been using ‘remember Maryland’ as our rallying cry.”


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