WILMINGTON, Del. — A Delaware lawmaker who came out during a debate over her state’s same-sex marriage bill earlier this year and her partner on Monday became the first couple to take advantage of the gay nuptials law.
State Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton) and her partner, Vikki Bandy, converted their civil union into a marriage at the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office in Wilmington.
“It’s exciting, both historically and personally,” Peterson told reporters after she and Bandy exchanged vows in a private ceremony. “I never thought in our lifetimes we would be getting married.”
Rehoboth Beach residents Chris Beagle and Eric Engelhart later on Monday became the first gay couple in Sussex County to convert their civil union into a marriage. Joseph Daigle, II, and Daniel Cole of Wilmington are the first same-sex couple who had not previously entered into a civil union to tie the knot in Delaware.
Attorney General Beau Biden and New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon are among those who spoke at Daigle and Cole’s wedding that took place inside the Marian Cruger Coffin Gardens at the Gibraltar Mansion in Wilmington on Monday evening.
“Today we are witnesses to a historic event for Delaware and for our community and quite frankly our future,” Biden said.
Daigle and Cole spoke with reporters after they exchanged vows.
“This was one of the most exciting moments of my life,” Daigle said. “I am so happy to be married to Dan.”
New Castle County Clerk of the Peace Ken Boulden, who officiated both Peterson and Bandy and Daigle and Cole’s weddings, said 108 same-sex couples in Delaware received marriage licenses on Monday. The state did not waive the 24-hour waiting period for any other gay or lesbian couples on the first day they could legally tie the knot.
Alexander Perez and Brad Poulter of Wilmington, who have been together for eight years, received their marriage license at the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace’s office shortly after Peterson and Bandy exchanged their marriage vows.
The men plan to tie the knot in Wilmington on July 13.
“It’s great to be living in a state that recognizes equality, realizes everyone is equal,” Poulter said.
11 states and D.C. now allow same-sex marriage.
Gays and lesbians in Minnesota and Rhode Island will begin to legally tie the knot on August 1.
The U.S. Supreme Court on June 26 found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and struck down California’s Proposition 8 that had banned same-sex marriage. Gays and lesbians in the Golden State began to once again exchange vows on June 28 after the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals listed its stay on gay nuptials in response to the justices’ Prop 8 ruling.
“You realize the benefits that you don’t have by not having marriage, or in our case civil unions,” Peterson said, noting Bandy was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer three years ago.
Bandy is now in remission, but Peterson had to pay extra taxes because her now spouse was on her health insurance policy.
“With DOMA gone that will not happen,” Peterson said.
A handful of Westboro Baptist Church members protested outside the New Castle County offices in which the Clerk of the Peace is located before Peterson and Bandy exchanged vows. The more than 100 same-sex marriage supporters who gathered across the street vastly outnumbered them.
“If you don’t want a gay marriage, don’t get one,” Alison Sprong of New Jersey told the Washington Blade as she stood among other same-sex marriage supporters outside the county offices in downtown Wilmington. “Don’t infringe on other peoples’ rights to do so.”
Wilmington resident Alex Koriakin, who plans to marry his partner next year, agreed as he applauded the state for allowing gays and lesbians to tie the knot.
“It’s time,” he said. “It’s great that Delaware can be one of the first states to take advantage of that.”
Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman, who also applied for a marriage license with her spouse, Drew Fennell, on Monday, agreed.
“So many people have worked for so many years to get us to this day,” Goodman told the Blade before she entered the county’s offices to attend Peterson and Bandy’s ceremony. “To actually be standing here about to go in and have the first licenses issued is just an amazing feeling.”