Just now, the Delaware Senate voted 12-9, to approve marriage equality legislation (HB 75), guaranteeing that Delaware will become the 11th state that recognizes same-sex couples’ marriages. The law will take effect July 1. Civil unions, which Delaware previously legalized in 2011, will convert to marriages after one year. The House passed the marriage equality bill two weeks ago by a 23-18 vote and Gov. Jack Markell (D) has promised to sign it.
The rhetoric today was heated, as religious leaders invited to speak by the bill’s opponents condemned homosexuality for multiple hours. Conservative witnesses and senators alike repeatedly sought explanations for why people should not be free to discriminate against same-sex couples, even though such discrimination is already illegal under Delaware law. Many argued that marriage is primarily about raising children, ignoring that many same-sex families are already raising children in Delaware. Unsurprisingly, one witness cited the debunked Regnerus study, while an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney claimed that the Ocean Grove pavilion in New Jersey was an example of “religious freedom” being violated, even though it wasn’t. A motion by opponents to table the bill failed 9-12.
During the final floor speeches, Sen. Karen Peterson (D) passionately shared her personal experiences as a lesbian with her colleagues — coming out publicly for the first time:
PETERSON: No one chose to be gay. We are what God made us. We don’t need to be fixed. We aren’t broken. [...]
My partner Vicki and I have been together for 24 years. Last year, we entered into a civil union. [...]
If my happiness somehow demeans or diminishes your marriage, you need to work on your marriage.
Rhode Island became the 10th state to legalize same-sex marriage just last week, Minnesota may be primed to become the 12th state perhaps as soon as later this week, and Illinois is also within “striking distance” of passing legislation.
Gov. Markell promptly signed the bill into law this afternoon, telling the gathered crowd, “I do not intend to make any of you wait one minute longer”: