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Delaware inches closer to passing marriage-equality bill

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April 28, 2013

By Jennifer Springer

Delaware

DOVER, Delaware: Just five days after Democrats in the state introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, the legislation is moving forward.[1] The marriage-equality bill, formally known as HB 75, passed the Delaware House on April 23rd by a 23-18 vote.[1] 21 votes were needed for passage, and five Democrats broke rank by voting against the bill.[2]

The five Democratic representatives who voted against the measure include: John Atkins, William Carson, Earl Jaques, Charles Paradee, and Charles Potter Jr..[2] Rep. Michael Ramone cast the lone Republican vote for the measure.[2]

Supporters of the bill say couples in same-sex relationships deserve the same dignity and respect afforded to married couples.[3] Also, supporters argue that if the United States Supreme Court overturns the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), those with state-sanctioned civil unions would be ineligible for tax benefits available to married opposite-sex couples.[4]

Opponents argue that same-sex marriage redefines and destroys the institution, and that same-sex couples in civil unions already have all the rights and benefits under state law that married couples have.[5] Opponents to the bill also cite concerns over religious liberties — worried that business owners who refuse marriage-related services for gay and lesbian couples could be hit with discrimination charges.[4]

Under the proposal, no new civil unions would be performed after July 1, and couples in civil unions could convert to marriages before July 2014 by applying for a marriage license. On July 1, 2014, all remaining civil unions not subject to dissolution, annulment or legal separation would automatically convert to marriages.[3]

In the United States, same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington and in Washington, D.C.[6]

Next, the bill heads to the state Senate.[1] The state Senate’s Executive Committee will consider HB 75. Should it clear committee, the senate leadership would then be free to bring up the bill at any time they believed they had sufficient votes to pass it.[7]

Seven of the Senate’s 21 members are official sponsors or co-sponsors of the measure. They include Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins, Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry, and Senators Harris McDowell III, Karen Peterson, Nicole Poore, and Bryan Townsend.[7]

Democratic Gov. Jack Markell has promised to sign the bill if it passes the Democratically-controlled General Assembly.[3]

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