Delaware House legalizes gay civil unions; governor will sign

by Peter Jesserer Smith

DOVER, Delaware, April 14, 2011 ( – House lawmakers in Delaware have enacted civil unions legislation that will give homosexual couples all of the legal benefits and obligations of marriage, except for the name.

The House voted Thursday evening 26 – 15 to approve SB 30, the homosexual civil unions bill. The Senate had already approved the bill. It now heads to Democrat Gov. Jack Markell for his signature.

The Dover Post reports that Markell intends to sign the bill next month at a signing ceremony. It will take effect January 1, 2012.

The House debated, and rejected nine amendments to the bill. One would have specified that unmarried heterosexuals could also apply for civil union status, another would have stressed that the legislature was not intending to make marriage the legal equivalent of a civil union, and another would have replaced the bill with a Designated Beneficiary Agreement, similar to what exists in Colorado law.

These amendments would have made the legislation less “marriage-like”; but The News Journal reported previously that homosexual activists intended the bill to provide a parallel institution to marriage for homosexuals. Lisa Goodman, president of Equality Delaware, explained that the bill intentionally excluded heterosexual couples from civil unions, because heterosexuals can enter into marriage with each other legally in Delaware.

House Republicans opposed the measure, but saw two defections from their caucus. However, two Democrats also crossed party lines to vote against the civil unions legislation against their party.

A House roll call of the vote is available here.

Doug Napier, a senior attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, excoriated the chamber for approving SB 30. The News Journal reports Napier was called to testify and raise a number of legal objections to the bill by House Republicans.

“You have created a new civil right, but you’ve done it at the expense of the institution of marriage, at the expense of children and at the expense of taxpayers who have no clue what they’re buying,” Napier said. “A vote for civil unions is a vote against marriage in Delaware. And that will be your voting record.”

Related Article: Delaware Poised to Pass Civil Unions

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