gay-marriage-civil-unions-delaware-governor-markellOn Wednesday May 11, Delaware joined a handful of other states in allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. The bill, signed into law by Governor Jack Markell would extend exactly “the same rights, protections and obligations that exist for married spouses,” according to the Governor’s office.

Upon signing the bill Gov. Markell said, “The greater good is served when we speak out and fight hard when we see that bias, prejudice or even outdated laws attempt to lessen any one of us.”

One of the bill’s leading sponsors, Rep. Melanie L. George, compared the fight for marriage equality with that of the fight for women’s and black’s civil rights, saying that she believes “with every fiber of my being that this is the right thing to do.” She continued by saying, “We are all different. We were all created with beautiful, unique differences. Who are we to judge that same-sex couples are any less deserving of the same recognition and benefits as opposite-sex couples? Our government stands for liberty and justice for all. We haven’t always gotten it right, but we have worked to correct those missteps, and this is a major step toward correcting an inequity and injustice.”

The bill was backed by Equality Delaware, a marriage equality activist group. A poll conducted by the group showed overwhelming popular support for the measure, with 62 percent of likely voters supporting civil unions.

The leading Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. David Sokola addressed the fear accompanied with the measure. “Much of the resistance to this is couched in fear, but the more time we spend with people and the more you learn about them, the less threatened we feel by other people,” he said.

A key point of this bill would require Delaware to recognize marriages and civil unions that same-sex couples enter into in other jurisdictions. A major sticking point in the fight for marriage equality is reciprocity. Even if couples marry in an area where it is legal, if they move to another area, most often their union will not be recognized.

“Tonight, we say to loving and committed couples across the state who want the law to endorse the promise they made long ago in their hearts: ‘Your love is equally valid and deserving, your family is now equal under the law,'” Gov. Markell added.

The bill legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

 By Wendy Innes

Photo: Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signs civil union bill while First Lady Carly Markell and members of Equality Delaware look on. Courtesy of Gov. Markell’s office