Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

Delaware Legalizes Gay Marriage

Delaware became the 11th US state to legalize gay marriage on Tuesday after the state Senate approved and the governor signed a marriage equality bill.

The Wilmington News-Journal reports that Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, signed the measure, HB 75, into law about a half an hour after the Senate voted 12-9 in favor of legalization. Two weeks ago, the state House voted 23-18 to approve the bill.

“I do not intend to make any of you wait one minute longer,” Markell told the large crowd gathered to witness the historic event.

There had been plenty of waiting earlier during the Senate debate, when opponents of marriage equality spoke against the bill for hours. ThinkProgress reports that religious leaders argued that the primary purpose of marriage is to raise children, “ignoring that many same-sex families are already raising children in Delaware.”

One witness cited the Regnerus study, a deeply flawed piece of research that falsely claimed that children raised by same-sex parents grow up to have more problems in life than those raised by heterosexual parents.

Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton), who came out as a lesbian during the debate by speaking about her 24-year relationship with her partner, said that much of the opposition to the marriage equality bill was rooted in the notion that being gay is a choice.

“Neither of us chose to be gay, any more than heterosexual people chose to be straight,” Peterson asserted. “No one chose to be gay. We are what God made us. We don’t need to be fixed. We aren’t broken… My partner Vicki and I have been together for 24 years. Last year, we entered into a civil union.”

“If my happiness somehow demeans or diminishes your marriage, you need to work on your marriage,” she added.

Two swing-vote senators, Bethany Hall-Long (D-Middletown) and Catherine Cloutier (R-Brandywine Hundred), voted in favor of marriage equality. Cloutier was the only Republican senator to vote for the bill. Two Democrats, Robert Venables of Laurel and Bruce Ennis of Smyrna, voted against equality.

Same-sex marriages are set to begin in Delaware, the oldest of the 50 states, on July 1. The state joins neighboring Maryland as the only other Mid-Atlantic state to have legalized gay marriage. Washington, DC has also done so, as have all six New England states, New York, Iowa, Washington state and three Native American tribes. The last state to achieve marriage equality was Rhode Island, which did so just last week. Fourteen foreign countries, most recently FranceNew Zealand and Uruguay— all within the past month– have also legalized same-sex marriage.

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