Same-sex marriage in Delaware
|Legal recognition of
† Not yet in effect
Same-sex marriage became legal in Delaware on July 1, 2013.
House Bill 75, titled An act to amend Title 13 of the Delaware code relating to domestic relations to provide for same-gender civil marriage and to convert existing civil unions to civil marriages, was signed into law by Governor Jack Markell hours after its passage in the Delaware House of Representatives and Senate. Though Rhode Island enacted legislation legalizing same-sex marriage before Delaware, on July 1, Delaware became the eleventh state, and twelfth US jurisdiction, to allow same-sex couples to marry, preceding Minnesota and Rhode Island by one month.
Delaware previously extended recognition to same-sex relationships in the form of civil unions, which grant same-sex couples the "rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities" of married persons. Civil unions have been available in Delaware since January 1, 2012, following the enactment of legislation signed by Governor Markell on May 11, 2011.
In March 2011, state Sens. David P. Sokola and Melanie George introduced a bill to allow civil unions in Delaware. It passed the Senate Administrative Services Committee on March 31, the full Senate 13-6 on April 7, 2011, and the House 26-15 on April 14. Markell signed the bill into law on May 11, 2011, and it took effect on January 1, 2012. At the signing, he said:
Tonight, with the signing of this law, we say to any Delawarean, regardless of sexual orientation, if you have committed yourself to somebody, and you've made that pledge to spend your life together in partnership, your love is equally valid and deserving, your family is now equal under the law.
As of July 1, 2013, civil unions are no longer offered to any couple and existing civil unions will be converted into marriages by July 1, 2014.
Same-sex marriage legislation
In March 2012, Governor Markell said he thought that the legalization of same-sex marriage in Delaware was "inevitable" and would be passed "probably within the next few years". In September 2012, Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf, who became House Speaker in January 2013, said he expected the General Assembly to vote on same-sex marriage in 2013 and that he would support it, but was uncertain of the legislation's prospects. On February 1, 2013, in anticipation of legislative activity, Francis Malooly, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Wilmington, authored a letter to parishioners that said marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman that must be "cherished and defended".
In April 2013, a bill was introduced to legalize same-sex marriage while eliminating civil unions and converting them to marriages by July 2014 if not dissolved earlier. W. Francis Malooly, Roman Catholic Bishop of Wilmington, wrote a letter to legislators on April 15 that said that marriage is not "just about love and commitment between two people" as many think but "it is also about the unique expression of love that only and man and woman as husband and wife can give to each other", that marriage is not a "label" but a "communion" that "is impossible without the sexual difference". The Delaware House Administration Committee advanced the bill to the full House on April 18. Governor Markell said he would sign it if it passed. It passed the House on April 23 on a 23–18 vote. The Senate Executive Committee approved the legislation on May 1. It passed the Senate on May 7 on a 12-9 vote. Markell signed the bill outside the legislature within an hour of the vote.
The legislation also gave Delaware courts authority over divorce proceedings in the case of a same-sex couple married in Delaware who reside in a state that will not grant them a divorce because it does not recognize their marriage.
State Senator Karen Peterson came out as lesbian during the debate on May 7, becoming the state's first-ever openly LGBT legislator. When the statute took effect on July 1, Peterson and her partner were the first same-sex couple to marry in the state.
In February 2011, a Public Policy Polling survey found that 48% of Delaware voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 47% were opposed and 5% percent were not sure. A March 6, 2011, poll by Lake Research Partners showed that 62% in Delaware favor allowing same-sex couples to form civil unions, while 31% were opposed, and 7% were not sure.
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- New Poll: 54% of Delaware Voters Support Marriage Equality
- Poll: At least half of Delaware's voters would support same-sex marriage