Same-sex marriage in Delaware
|Legal status of same-sex unions|
* Not yet in effect
Same-sex marriage has been legally recognized in Delaware since July 1, 2013. Governor Jack Markell signed legislation on May 7, 2013, just 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 became available in Delaware on 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.
Delaware civil unions provided the "rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities" of marriage under a different name.
As of July 1, 2013, civil unions are no longer offered to any couple and existing civil unions were converted into marriages by July 1, 2014.
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 was 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. The bill adds the following to Delaware's marriage statute:
The rights of same-gender married spouses, with respect to a child of whom either spouse becomes the parent during their marriage, shall be the same as the rights of different-gender married spouses with respect to a child of whom either spouse becomes the parent during their marriage.
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 legally convert their existing civil union into a marriage within the state. The first same-sex couple to marry were Joseph Daigle and Dan Cole, in a semi-public ceremony attended by hundreds and officiated by New Castle County Clerk of the Peace Ken Boulden on July 1, 2013 in the Marian Cruger Coffin Gardens at Gibraltar Mansion in Wilmington, Delaware. Opening remarks for the first marriage were provided by Attorney General Beau Biden, an invocation was provided by Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church Pat Downing, and a reading was performed by poet Devon Miller-Duggan. Daigle and Cole were activists heavily involved in the process of passage, and Cole worked on writing and implementing the law.
A bill removing "homosexuality" and "lesbianism" from the definition of misconduct which may be used as grounds for a divorce was introduced on March 13, 2016 in the Delaware General Assembly. The bill passed the state House on May 10 in a 36-4 vote. It was approved by the state Senate on June 9 in a unanimous 21-0 vote. Governor Jack Markell signed the bill on June 28.
2,092 marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014. In Sussex County and Kent County, around 37% and 10% of marriage licenses were granted to same-sex couples, respectively. Same-sex marriages made up around 26% of all marriages statewide. The high percentage is mostly attributed to the fact that same-sex marriages could not be legally performed in neighbouring states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
|% support||% opposition||% no opinion|
|New York Times/CBS News/YouGov||September 20–October 1, 2014||471 likely voters||± 5.2%||54%||31%||15%|
|Global Strategy Group||February 12–14, 2014||603 likely voters in the 2014 election||± 4%||54%||37%||-|
|Public Policy Polling||January 26–28, 2011||605 registered voters||± 4%||48%||47%||5%|
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- "147th General Assembly, House Bill #75". State of Delaware Official Website.
- TITLE 13 Domestic Relations CHAPTER 1. MARRIAGE
- § 1504. Jurisdiction; residence;procedure, accessed May 12, 2013
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- DE HB320 | 2015-2016 | 148th General Assembly
- Fisher, James (July 14, 2014). "Delaware's gay marriage boom may ebb". The News Journal.