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Religious Tolerance logo

Civil unions and same-sex marriage in Delaware

Part 2

2011: Concerns, opposition & support
for Bill 30 to create same-sex civil unions

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This essay is continued from Part 1

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Additional opposition and support for civil unions:

  • Jordan Warfle of the Delaware Family Policy Council gave further reasons why the Council opposed bill 30:

    • Creation of civil unions would increase costs in the state. Presumably he is referring to some employers being required to extend benefits to civil unionized spouses on a par with married spouses, and costs associated with starting up the civil unions system.

    • Warfle indicated that there are negative "religious implications" associated with civil unions. Unfortunately, he did not define what they are.

    • Wedding planners, photographers, caterers, etc. may be charged with discrimination under existing state anti-discrimination laws if they refuse to supply their services to couples being civil unionized. This is a concern for many religious conservatives for whom the concept of religious freedom is gradually transitioning to the religious freedom to denigrate and discriminate against minorities.

    • In other states, civil unions have been used as a platform from which to try to achieve full marriage equality by legalizing same-sex marriages.
  • In the same video, Rep. John Kowalko, said that bill 30 is a good bill because:
    • "It excludes any impact on the sanctity of the sacrament, so to speak, of marriage." The Roman Catholic Church recognizes marriage ceremony as a sacrament; most of the other faith groups view it as a religious ritual.

    • "I think it's a basic rights bill; I think it's a civil rights bill; I think it's a human rights bill that we allow people that have that commitment to each other to enjoy the relationship in a formal way with all the benefits and/or burdens. ..."

  • Former Senator Lee Littleton (R, Sussex County) objected to the bill on religious grounds. She appears to be concerned about the immortal soul of lesbians, gays and bisexuals in same-gender sexually active relationships. She is also concerned that God may be so angry at the state's extension of basic rights and protections to loving, committed same-sex couples that he might mount a devastating attack against Delaware or the entire U.S. She said:

    "I believe God's word says man with man and woman with woman is an abomination, I don't want people going to Hell." I think this bill OK’ing man with man and woman with woman is a sin against God. He will judge us, and I don’t want our state and our nation to be judged with the wrath of God." 3

Conservative Christians often interpret certain "clobber passages" in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) as implying that sexually active persons with a homosexual orientation are automatically denied access to Heaven after they die. Other Christians have very different interpretations of the same passages. The belief that God will attack the U.S. via earthquakes, volcanic outbursts, drought, etc. is widely feared by religious conservatives. However, among the twelve or so countries of the world that have legalized same-sex marriage on or before 2013, there have been no such attacks noticed.

  • Equality Delaware (EQDE) is the main LGBT-positive human rights agency in the state. They helped lawmakers draft the legislation. Its director, Lisa Goodman, clarified EQDE's position on civil unions. She said:
  • "It's not about religion, it's not about procreation, it's not about some private purpose; this bill is about fairness and equality. This is a moderate bill based on what already exists in Delaware law to provide some but not all of the rights and protections that opposite sex couples enjoy." 2

  • The public favors civil union by a ratio of 2 to 1. Lake Research Partners conducted a poll between 2011-FEB-28 and MAR-06. They found that 62% of voters favor allowing same-sex couples to form civil unions whereas 31% are opposed. Seven percent are undecided or did not respond. (N = almost 700 persons; margin of error is ±3.8 percentage points.)

    Lisa Goodman, President of Equality Delaware, said

    "The poll findings are consistent with what we have been hearing for months from citizens up and down the state. Delawareans clearly support civil unions as a way to provide equal protections for same-sex families."

    The poll also determined that:

    • 45% of voters strongly favored same-sex civil unions; 21% strongly opposed them.
    • 73% of Democrats, 63% of independents and 45% of Republicans favored civil unions.
    • Most voters of all ages support civil unions: 55% of seniors, 64% of voters 50 to 64, and 64% of voters under 50 years-of-age.

There has been a remarkable increase in support for both civil unions and same-sex marriage since this civil unions bill became law. Nationally, support for same-sex marriage has approached 60% by early 2013.

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Concern over the financial implications of Senate Bill 30:

Phillip Drew, a resident of Bethany Beach expressed concern to the Senate committee about additional financial burdens that Bill 30 would place on the state. He said that: "This bill adds costs to county and local governments during a period when budgets should be cut, not increased."

  • The Controller General’s office estimated that civil unions would cost the state between $115,000 and $225,000 per year to cover higher employee insurance premiums. This estimate was based on a rise of 0.3 and 0.6% claims due to employees' partners and children receiving protection.

  • The Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law at UCLA, said the bill would only cost the state $93,000 in the first year. This is because the higher insurance costs would be partly offset by increased tourism revenue and civil union licensing fees.

  • Ken Boulden, Clerk of the Peace for New Castle County, testified that SB 30 would require a one-shot total expenditure of about $90,000 for all three of the state's counties to change their systems to accommodate civil unions.

Delaware has a population of about 900,000 people, 5 so the initial setup costs would cost about $0.10 per person. The continuing costs to give partners and children of employees in civil unions equal protection and coverage to spouses and children of married employees would be between $0.10 and $0.25 per person per year.

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Partial text of Senate Bill #30:

  • § 205 (c) protects religious discrimination by clergy and prohibits it among Clerks of the Peace: "Other than as provided in this paragraph, nothing in this section shall be construed to require any person authorized to perform solemnization of marriages or civil unions to perform a solemnization of a civil union, and no such authorized person who fails or refuses for any reason to join persons in a civil union shall be subject to any fine or other penalty for such failure or refusal.  Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, a Clerk of the Peace or deputy thereof who issues a civil union license shall be required to perform a solemnization of such civil union if requested by the applicants for such license, and such solemnization shall be afforded the same order of priority as solemnization of marriages pursuant to chapter 1 of this title.  Clerks of the Peace shall act pursuant to this chapter in the same manner as they act pursuant to chapter 1 of this title, without discrimination as to whether the issue involves a marriage under chapter 1 of this title or a civil union under this chapter. ..." 

  • § 212 (a) defines the rights protections and benefits received by civil unionized spouses: "Parties to a civil union lawfully entered into or otherwise recognized pursuant to this chapter shall have all the same rights, protections and benefits, and shall be subject to the same responsibilities, obligations and duties under the laws of this State, whether derived from statutes, administrative rules or regulations, court rules, governmental policies, common law, court decisions, or any other provisions or sources of law, including in equity, as are granted to, enjoyed by or imposed upon married spouses. ..."

  • § 213 covers out of state civil unions: "A legal union between two individuals of the same sex that was validly formed in another jurisdiction, regardless of whether such legal union is recognized under chapter 1 of this title or is referred to as a civil union, shall be recognized as a validly established civil union under this chapter for all purposes of the laws of this State, provided that the legal union meets the eligibility requirements of § 202 of this chapter for a civil union and such legal union affords to and imposes on the parties thereto substantially similar rights, benefits, protections, responsibilities and duties as those afforded to and imposed on parties to a civil union entered into in this State under this chapter."

  • The bill contains a Synopsis section summarizing its scope: "This Act creates the recognized legal relationship of civil union in Delaware for eligible persons. This Act further recognizes as civil unions for all purposes under Delaware law legal unions between two persons of the same sex entered into in jurisdictions outside of Delaware provided that such union and the parties thereto meet the Delaware eligibility requirements to enter into a civil union in the State of Delaware.

    Parties who enter into a lawful civil union in Delaware, or whose legal union is recognized as a civil union under Delaware law, will have all of the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities as married persons under Delaware law.

    It is not the intent of the Delaware General Assembly to revise the definition or eligibility requirements of marriage under Delaware law or to require any religious institution to perform solemnizations of civil unions." 6

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Actually, the synosis section is incorrect. A same-sex couple entering into a civil union is not given all of the same rights and benefits are are automatically given to all opposite-sex married couples. Couples in a civil union do not receive what to many is the most important right of marriage: to call their relationship a marriage.

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This topic continues in Part 3 with the attempt in 2013 to allow same-sex couples to marry

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Who we are," Delaware Family Policy Council, at:
  2. Ryan Prado, "Civil unions bill clears Delaware Senate panel," 2011-MAR-31, at:
  3. Doug Denison, "Update: Civil unions bill out of Senate committee," Denver Post, 2011-MAR-30, at:
  4. John Rago, "Statewide Poll Shows Broad Support Among Likely Voters in Delaware for a Civil Union Law," Equality Delaware, 2011-MAR-25, at:
  5. State & County QuickFacts: Delaware," U.S. Census Bureau, 2010, at:
  6. Senator Sokola, "Senate Bill No, 30. An act to amend title 13 of the Delaware Code Relating to Civil Unions," Government of Delaware, at:

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Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Couples > SSM/Civil unions > Delaware > here

Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2011-JUN-26
Latest update: 2011-JUN-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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