The 4-2 vote in the Senate Executive Committee took place eight days after the Delaware House of Representatives approved House Bill 75.
“I consider same-sex marriage to be an important step towards equal justice under the law in Delaware and in the United States of America,” state Sen. David Sokola (D-Newark,) who sponsored HB 75 in the Senate, said as he spoke in support of the proposal.
Bishop Wayne Wright of the Episcopal Church of Delaware agreed.
“Our families, our communities and our state will be stronger, healthier and better places when all receive equal dignity and respect under the law,” he said.
Pastor Edward J. Lasko, Sr., of Middletown Baptist Church is among those who testified against HB 75 during the 90 minute hearing.
“I want to urge you to defend the traditional definition of marriage,” he said. “History verifies that the traditional man, woman relationship of marriage has brought stability and strength to society.”
Nicole Theis, president of the Delaware Family Policy Council, reiterated her previous claims the state’s civil unions law that took effect in 2012 affords same-sex couples all of the benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage. She said lawmakers would say “gender doesn’t matter” if they support HB 75.
“You’re saying two moms are equal to a dad and two dads are equal to a mom,” Theis said.
Pastor Chris Rue of the World of Life Christian Center in New Castle said the state would throw monogamy and fidelity “out of the window” if lawmakers allow nuptials for gays and lesbians in the state.
Linda Sapienza described how sexual abuse “leads our youth to same-sex identity confusion.” Judy Mason of Agape Love Outreach Ministry in Felton had a more ominous message for lawmakers as she cited scripture she claims condemns homosexuality.
“Please don’t reject God, his great love, his protection and his provision and remember the warning from Ezekiel,” she said as HB 75 supporters in the gallery began to audibly laugh. “Today consider yourselves warned.”
Richard Smith, president of the Delaware State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP,) criticized the homophobic rhetoric some HB 75 opponents used during their testimony as he spoke in support of the bill.
“This isn’t about saying we will get AIDS or we will become drug addicts,” he said. “This is about two people who love each other.”
Neighboring Maryland is among the nine states and D.C. in which same-sex couples can legally marry.
A Global Strategy Group poll that Equality Delaware commissioned in February shows 54 percent of Delawareans back nuptials for gays and lesbians. A survey that ABC News and the Washington Post released in March indicates 58 percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage.
Nine of the state’s 21 senators have either co-sponsored HB 75 or publicly said they will vote for the measure.
Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman told the Washington Blade last week she remains confident HB 75 will have the necessary 11 votes to pass in the Senate when it votes on the measure on Tuesday.
Gov. Jack Markell has said he will sign HB 75 into law if lawmakers approve it.