March 20, 2013 at 4:23 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Delaware lawmaker to introduce marriage bill
Melanie George Smith, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade

State Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) sponsored Delaware’s civil unions bill in the state House of Representatives. (Photo courtesy of Delaware House Majority Caucus.)

A Delaware lawmaker who sponsored the state’s civil unions bill told the Washington Blade on Wednesday she will introduce a measure that would extend full marriage rights to same-sex couples in the First State.

“It’s going to be my honor and privilege to be able to sponsor the bill in the House of Representatives,” said state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear).

Smith did not provide a specific timeline as to when she would formally introduce the same-sex marriage bill.

The legislative session ends on June 30, but Attorney General Beau Biden told the Blade on March 16 he is “anxious to make sure that something is put in the General Assembly sooner than later so we don’t run up against the clock.” He is among the 14 state attorneys general who filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court that argues both the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 are unconstitutional.

“We want to make sure that everything is lined up that we’ve got a bill that’s legally and technically perfect that way there can be no question,” Smith said. “It’s such a controversial issue from some people’s perspective that we don’t want folks picking apart the bill on technical matters or anything along those lines.”

“If we’re going to do this we’re going to do it perfectly,” she added. “We’re just working to get it done perfectly. As soon as we’re confident that the bill has no legal or technical flaws and that everything looks good that’s when we’ll be going ahead and introducing it.”

Smith spoke with the Blade less than a week after gay Delaware Republican Party Executive Director John Fluharty publicly spoke in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples during an interview at an Equality Delaware fundraiser in Wilmington.

“We’re all individual people and we as individuals care about equality, we care about fairness and we care about people and their fairness,” she said, adding she feels nuptials for gays and lesbians is a non-partisan issue. “We have a very courageous and strong individual who is willing to say I support fairness; I support equality.”

Smith remains optimistic the same-sex marriage bill will gain Republican support in the state legislature once she introduces it. She said the success of the state’s civil unions law that took effect in 2012 has helped lay the foundation upon which advocates can gain further support for nuptials for gays and lesbians in Delaware.

“You’ve really got a platform in Delaware where folks want to see fairness and they want to see Delawareans who are in love have the same opportunity to receive the same federal benefits as other people do,” she said. “When you talk with folks about that, I think it really helps shape the nature of the debate and people understand what’s going on.”

Smith also applauded Vice President Biden, President Obama and others who have spoken publicly in support of the issue.

“When we have national leaders who are willing to support equality for everybody it kind of sends the message from the top down it’s a value that we in America hold dearly,” she said. “We were founded on a nation of equal rights and that we’ve spent the last couple of hundred years trying to correct injustices where things aren’t equal.”

A Global Strategy Group survey that Equality Delaware commissioned last month found 54 percent of Delaware voters support marriage rights for same-sex couples. Three-quarters of respondents said nuptials for gays and lesbians in the state would not negatively impact their lives.

Smith said she remains optimistic the same-sex marriage bill will pass.

“It is really truly about recognizing the value that we in Delaware place on individual equality and Delawareans should be able to have the same rights as everybody,” she said.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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