Civil unions and same-sex marriage in Delaware
2013 APR & MAY:
Bill HB 75 passed by a House Committee,
House, and a Senate Committee.
The following material is taken from usually reliable media sources. However, please do not make personal decisions based in this material. Errors sometime creep into media accounts and end up in our essays.
2013-APR-17: Bill HB 75 is passed by the House Administration Committee:
After two hours of emotional discussion, the Committee passed Bill HB 75 with a 4 to 1 vote. To their credit, the National Organization for Marriage -- the main national group attempting to prevent same-sex couples from marrying -- allowed "Richard" to post a comment to their blog entry:
"Yes, Delaware citizens. Contact your representatives. You have a democratic house, a democratic senate and a democratic governor. Please contact them and tell them that Delaware supports gay marriage as evidenced by the fact you voted a majority in the three branches of government." 1
The bill now proceeds to the full House for a debate and vote.
2013-APR-23: Bill HB 75 is passed by the full House:
The bill passed with a vote of 23 to 18. One Republican, (Rep. Michael Ramone of Middle Run Valley), and 22 Democrats voted for the bill. Five Democrats (John Atkins of Millsboro, William Carson of Smyrna, Earl Jaques of Glasgow, Charles “Trey” Paradee of West Dover and Charles Potter Jr. of Wilmington) and 13 Republicans voted against the bill.
The main witness against the bill was Jordan Lorence, a lawyer from the Alliance Defending Freedom. He argued in favor of adding a special clause to the bill that would give commercial interests the religious freedom to discriminate against loving, committed same-sex couples who are planning to marry. He said:
"It’s the business owners that deal with weddings. It’s licensed professionals having their licenses threatened because they believe the wrong things about marriage. ... Those are the places where we are having religious liberty conflicts around the country." 2
He was not referring to religious liberty in the traditional meaning of the term. That is the liberty to hold any religious belief, to assemble with other believers, to proselytize, etc. Instead, he was referring to the emerging meaning of "religious liberty" -- the freedom to oppress and denigrate women or a minority because of one's religious beliefs. Delaware already has human rights legislation on the books that prohibit businesses from discriminating among customers on the basis of the latter's race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Many social and religious conservatives feel that some businesses serving the marriage industry -- florists, wedding cake bakers, wedding photographers, etc. -- will run afoul of human rights legislation and be prosecuted -- not for their beliefs as Lorence said, but for their decision to refuse to provide services to sexual minorities. A handful of cases of such cases have occurred across the U.S. However, in many cases their discrimination has worked to the businesses' financial benefit. Their customer base has greatly expanded as some religious and social conservatives prefer to do business with companies that violate human rights legislation by discriminating against lesbians, gays and bisexuals. We are not aware of any individuals or businesses losing a license because they discriminated against lesbians, gays, or bisexuals by refusing to provide services that they provide to the general public.
The lead sponsor of the bill, Rep Melanie George Smith (D) noted that a 2009 law already protects same-sex couples from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. The marriage bill would create:
"... nothing new someone could sue under."
She said that the House debate clarified some issues. She expects the legislation will pass. She said:
"I think it’s too early at this point to say with certainty what the vote count is going to be." 2
However, she missed the point. The problem perceived by many religious and social conservative is that the number of human rights prosecutions might increase if same-sex marriages were legalized. The opportunities for discrimination might become more common for companies in the wedding industry.
Nicole Theis, president of the Delaware Family Policy Council, a fundamentalist Christian group, recalled the rally involving hundreds of people that her group organized at Legislative Hall earlier in April. She said:
"There were a couple of representatives, I know for a fact, their districts were not in favor of this. There are people who are very disappointed, and I know there are people who are very much looking at the prospects of engaging even further and being candidates for office. ... The coming debate in the Senate will be no less heated than what occurred in the House. The Senate [vote], of course, is going to be very close. We expect to have more robust debate and people will just have to be heard." 2
2013-MAY-01: Bill SB 75 is passed by the Senate Executive Committee:
Over an hour of public testimony included testimony by Timothy Koob on behalf of E. I. Dupont. He noted that Delaware's refusal to allow loving, committed same-sex couples to marry placed the company at a disadvantage when trying to hire the best people. He said:
"DuPont believes our support for marriage equality represents … our commitment to inclusion."
Full disclosure: The author of this essay was employed by DuPont of Canada, a subsidiary of E. I Dupont for 38 years, and found it to be an unusually ethical company.
The Reverend Judy Mason also testified, referring to LGBT persons as "an abomination, a perversion." Apparently quoting a biblical passage from Leviticus 20, she said that the Bible calls for the death penalty. Some theologians believe that the passage refers only same-gender sexual behavior in Pagan temples, which is extremely rare in modern-day United States. Others say that the passage condemns such behavior but if it is performed on a woman's bed.
She also quoted Romans 1:26, where she testified that God said both men and women involved in homosexuality are deserving of death. Some theologians note that the passage condemns heterosexual men and women who violate their natural sexual attraction and engage in sexual intercourse with members of the same sex. The same passage could be interpreted as condemning lesbian and gay persons who have sex with the opposite gender because it is against their fundamental nature. She said:
"That breaks my heart. I don't desire that anybody die and go to hell. ... Remember the warning from Ezekiel, if you tell a righteous man to turn from his wicked ways and he loses righteousness I will require his blood at your hand if you don't warn him. Today consider yourselves warned."
We suspect that her testimony was so extreme that she might have swayed the opinion of some Senators in favor of the bill. However, we will never know. Readers' comments on the Advocate's news report was rather brutal towards Rev. Mason. One of the mildest was by Ricky Drake:
"Let's see...there's the guy from DuPont speaking total common sense, and then there's the crackpot Reverend woman speaking total gibberish. Is it any wonder we will win in the end." 3
The Senate Executive Committee passed the bill to the full Senate by a vote of 4 to 2.
This topic continues in Part 6
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Marriage Redefinition Clears House Committee in Delaware," National Organization for Marriage, 2013-APR-18, at: http://www.nomblog.com/
- "Delaware gay marriage bill stays on track after close House vote," Delaware Online, 2012-APR-23, at: http://www.delawareonline.com/
- "Same-sex marriage legislation clears Delaware Senate committee, vote expected Tuesday," Delaware Online, 2013-MAY-01, at: http://www.delawareonline.com/
Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
First posted: 2013-APR-18
Latest update: 2013-MAY-10
Author: B.A. Robinson