No. 11: Marriage Equality Signed in Delaware

After a 12-9 vote in the senate, gay couples will be able to marry in Delaware starting this summer.

BY Michelle Garcia

May 07 2013 5:28 PM ET

Sen. Karen Peterson, who announced that she is a lesbian right before the senate voted

The Delaware state senate passed its marriage equality bill Tuesday afternoon with a 12-9 vote. The legislation, which already passed in the house, will head to Gov. Jack Markell, who has said he would sign the bill into law if it reached his desk, allowing gay and lesbian couples to start marrying on July 1.

The new law repeals the ban on marriages for same-sex couples that was approved in 1996. HB75 passed after a lengthy floor debate, which included testimony from senators, religious leaders, and others who oppose marriage equality and homosexuality. A motion to table the bill all together failed, 9-12.

Sen. Robert Venables used the Queen James Bible—a take on the King James Bible that aims to share a less homophobic version of biblical events—as an example of how LGBT activists have been able to change the conversation on gay rights, which he believes has happened too hastily. Another witness cited a study by professor Mark Regnerus on the negative affects of gay parents, which has been debunked since its release. An attorney from the conservative Alliance Defense Fund also testified before the senate, warning that businesses that do not want to accommodate gay couples could face legal trouble.

In the process of making Delaware the 11th state, plus the District of Columbia, with legal marriage equality, Sen. Karen Peterson came out as a lesbian, telling her colleagues, "If my happiness somehow demeans or diminishes your marriage, you need to work on your marriage."

Peterson mentioned her partner of 24 years, Vicki. They entered a civil union, which were officially established in January 2012.

Delaware-issued civil unions will automatically be converted to marriages on July 1, 2014, Pam's House Blend reports.

UPDATE, 6:14 p.m. Eastern: Gov. Markell signed the bill nearly immediately after the senate's approval. He will appear at a Google+ Hangout this evening starting at 7:45 p.m. about the historic moment.

“Today, we wrote a new chapter in our history and proved, once again, justice and equality continue to move forward in Delaware,” Markell said.

U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware applauded the new Civil Marriage Equality and Religious Freedom Act of 2013.

“This is a truly historic day for our state,” Senator 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."

Coons, who is a co-sponsor of the legislation to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, also praised the leaders at Equality Delaware for their lobbying efforts.

Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said Delaware's senate establishing legal marriage was an important step as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to give its own ruling on the legality of Proposition 8 and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden said the vote was historic for The First State.

“Because of today's vote, all Delawareans will be equal under the law and free to choose whom to love and whom to spend their lives with. I would like to congratulations to the supporters of the marriage equality legislation worked extremely hard to get this bill passed, to Governor Jack Markell, Senator David Sokola, Representative Melanie George Smith, President Pro Tem Patricia Blevins, Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf and all of the legislators who voted for House Bill 75.”

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