DOVER, Del.—The only Republican co-sponsor of Delaware’s same-sex marriage bill told the Washington Blade during an exclusive interview on Wednesday he supports the measure because it’s “the right thing” to do.
“I always try to be respectful of what people think and how they think and we are supporters of treating everyone equally,” state Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley) said while discussing he and his wife Lisa’s decision to support House Bill 75. He noted during the interview he has a gay son and several of those who have worked at the six flower shops and floral warehouse they own throughout Delaware are out. “Gay people have become very close to us. We just don’t believe that they shouldn’t be treated equally like everyone else and have the opportunity to get married.”
Ramone spoke with the Blade less than three hours before the House Administration Committee voted 4-1 to move HB 75 to the full House. He and his wife also attended the April 11 press conference in Wilmington at which state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) announced she had introduced it.
The New Castle County Republican who has represented House District 21 since 2008 told the Blade he did not want Equality Delaware and other HB 75 supporters to officially announce his co-sponsorship of the bill during the press conference because he wanted to talk with his GOP colleagues about his position at first.
“They’ve been very kind and understanding,” Ramone said. “This is one of those things where we’re on different sides. We just are looking at it from different sets of glasses.”
He added he has received what he described as “an enormous amount of calls and letters because I am a Republican and a lot of people would have thought a Republican wouldn’t have done this.” Ramone said they have come from same-sex marriage and opponents alike.
“People in my district are very kind and understanding,” he said. “There are some fringe people that call me from… that are a little more harsh and troublesome.”
Ramone, who is one of two Republicans who voted for the state’s civil unions law that Gov. Jack Markell signed in 2011, said someone threw eggs at his home and car and vandalized his mailbox in the days after the vote. He conceded he has had “some very stressful environments” since his support of HB 75 became known that include people handing him a Bible and reading passages they claim prove he will go to hell over his position.
Ramone said neither he nor his family have received any threats or had “any issues” with their home or businesses over the marriage bill.
“I don’t really believe we’re redefining marriage with this bill,” he said. “Marriage can still be a holy sacrament between a man and a woman. We haven’t changed that. It’s just now that two men and two women get to be able to partake in the same sacramental event in their church.”
More than 200 GOP legislators voted for same-sex marriage
Ramone is the latest in a growing number of Republican lawmakers across the country who support nuptials for gays and lesbians.
Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk earlier this month publicly backed same-sex marriage, while U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) endorsed the issue during an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court’s oral arguments on two cases that challenge the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Illinois Republican Party Chair Pat Brady and former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, Jr., are among those who also support nuptials for gays and lesbians.
More than 200 Republican state legislators across the country have so far voted in support of same-sex marriage.
“I’m a Republican because I believe in fiscal responsibility and trying to make the government a place that helps people build businesses and be successful, not because it tells us how we should socially live our lives,” Ramone said in response to the Blade’s question about continued opposition to nuptials for gays and lesbians within the broader Republican Party. “I wish we had a Republican Party that focused more on how we can make the world better through fiscal responsibility. And if there are social environments that aren’t hurting anyone else by their actual ability to participate in them on an equal basis, I don’t know that we should be involved in that.”
Same-sex marriage supporters were quick to welcome Ramone’s support.
“We are incredibly proud to have Mike Ramone as a vote for marriage equality,” Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman told the Blade before the House committee voted to advance HB 75. “He has long supported our community, and is a man who understands that marriage equality is not a partisan issue.”
Smith agreed during a brief interview with the Blade after the committee vote.
“He’s great,” she said.