May 7, 2013 at 5:08 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Delaware approves marriage equality
Jack Markell, Delaware, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Jack Markell on Tuesday signs Delaware’s same-sex marriage bill into law in Dover, Del. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Jackson)

The Delaware Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that will allow same-sex marriage in the First State.

The 12-9 vote came more than three hours after lawmakers began to hear testimony from House Bill 75 supporters and opponents.

Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere,) Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington) and Senate Majority Leader David McBride (D-Hawk’s Nest) voted for HB 75 alongside state Sens. Brian Bushweller (D-Dover,) Catherine Cloutier (R-Heatherbrooke,) Bethany A. Hall-Long (D-Middletown,) Robert Marshall (D-Wilmington,) Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington,) Karen Peterson (D-Stanton,) Nicole Poore (D-New Castle,) David Sokola (D-Newark) and Bryan Townsend. Senate Minority Whip Gregory Lavelle (R-Sharpley) and Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson (R-Milford) voted against the proposal along with state Sens. Colin Bonini (R-Dover,) Bruce Ennis (D-Smyrna,) Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View,) David Lawson (R-Marydel,) Ernesto Lopez (R-Lewes,) Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown) and Robert Venables (D-Laurel.)

“It is about treating couples the same under the law as all other couples,” Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman said. “It is about treating similarly situated people the same.”

Peterson came out as a lesbian while she spoke in support of House Bill 75.

“We are not seeking to redefine marriage,” she said, noting she and her partner of more than 20 years entered into a civil union once the state’s civil unions law took effect in Jan. 2012. “We are seeking to expand the definition of marriage just as the Supreme Court did in the Loving v. Virginia case.”

Venables noted “anatomy” means “a man should not be marrying a man” as he spoke against House Bill 75.

“This is a step to break [marriage] down,” he said.

Father Leonard Klein of the Diocese of Wilmington also testified against the proposal.

“Marriage exists obviously we believe by the will of God because the sexual orientation between men and women tends to create babies,” he said. “Because of this, every human culture has found some way to see to it that children conceived by the interaction by men and women are raised ideally by the people who brought them into the ages.”

Lopez, whose district includes Rehoboth Beach, said on the Senate floor he and his family experienced “hate” during the final weeks of his campaign against gay Realtor Andy Staton last fall because of the fliers the Delaware Liberty Fund, an independent LGBT PAC, distributed. He said they came from and were “paid for from individuals who now support marriage equality.”

The Victory Fund, which endorsed Staton, declined to comment on Lopez’s claims.

Staton described the fliers to the Washington Blade on Wednesday as “unfortunate.”

Lopez did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment, but Staton criticized his former opponent for voting against HB 75.

“He misrepresented his district,” Staton said. “This is a district that strongly favored marriage equality and it was unfortunate that he could not side with those people that were in favor for equality for all of us here in Delaware.”

Neighboring Maryland is among the nine states and D.C. in which same-sex couples can currently marry.

Gays and lesbians can legally tie the knot in Rhode Island on Aug. 1 after the state’s same-sex marriage law that Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed last week takes effect.

Gov. Jack Markell signed HB 75 into law shortly after the Senate approved it.

“Today, we wrote a new chapter in our history and proved, once again, justice and equality continue to move forward in Delaware,” he said. “By signing House Bill 75 into law, we are another step closer towards achieving that goal.”

Delaware Sen. Chris Coons is among those who also applauded HB 75’s passage.

“This is a truly historic day for our state,” he said. “The passage of HB 75 ushers in a new era of equality in our state and marks an important moment in our state’s history. I am incredibly proud.”

“In Delaware, we do what is right for our citizens,” state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear,) who introduced HB 75 in the Delaware House of Representatives last month, added. “This bill is about equality and treating all couples in a loving, committed relationship with equal respect and dignity.”

Victory Fund CEO Chuck Wolfe also praised Peterson for coming out as he applauded the measure’s approval.

“We congratulate Sen. Peterson for telling her colleagues what marriage equality means to her and her partner and for standing up for freedom and fairness for everyone in Delaware,” he said.

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

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