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Civil unions and same-sex marriage


In Delaware

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Obtaining equal rights for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community (LGBT) in Delaware has been slow, but the pace is accelerating.

  • The first bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation was introduced to the Legislature during 1998. It took 11 years to be passed.

  • The civil unions bill was introduced in 2011; it was passed two months later.

  • A bill to make marriage available to loving, committed same-sex couples is being introduced in 2013. 1

As of early 2013-MAY, loving committed same-sex couples could marry in nine states and the District of Columbia. Rhode Island also has a law legalizing SSM but it does not come into effect until 2013-AUG-01. Nine other states had passed legislation that allow same-sex couples to apply for civil unions, domestic partnerships, or similarly named recognition of their relationships.

Same-sex marriage, same-sex civil unions, and domestic partnerships give couples some or all of the approximately 300 rights, privileges and responsibilities that are automatically given to married couples in their states. However, married or "civil unionized" same-sex couples and their children are not eligible to receive any of the 1,138 federal rights, obligations, and protections that can be available to opposite-sex married couples, because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The constitutionality of this law is under review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Their ruling is expected late in 2013-JUN.

A civil union gives partial recognition to their relationship. However, they do not grant the couple what some consider the most important right: the right to call their relationship a marriage. Also, a civil union certificate may become worthless as soon as the couple crosses a state line. That is because most states would consider their loving, committed same-sex relationship as "legal strangers" -- being equivalent to roommates sharing a house or apartment. Same-sex couples in a civil union or marriage have to plot their vacation travels carefully, in the event of an accident requiring hospitalization.

Delaware was one of the states that considered its same-sex couples as simple roommates. Then, on 2011-MAR-22. Senator Dave Sokola (D) introduced the "Civil Union and Equality Act of 2011" (Senate Bill 30) to create a system of civil unions in Delaware. It was passed, in turn, by a Senate Committee, by the full Senate, and finally by the House.

On 2011-MAY-11, Governor Jack Markell (D) signed S.B. 30 into law, creating civil unions for eligible same-sex couples and granting them all of "... the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities as married persons under Delaware law." 2 The law came into effect on 2012-JAN-01

At the start of 2012, Delaware became the eighth state in the U.S. to offer civil unions to its citizens. It became the 15th state to recognize loving committed same-sex relationships -- with some states allowing full marriage, and others allowing only civil unions. As of 2013-MAY, the latter number has risen to 19 plus the District of Columbia. The legislatures of many additional states, like Illinois, Minnesota, and Oregon, are debating whether to legalize same-sex marriage.

The fee for a civil union license in Delaware is $50.00 -- the same as for a marriage license in the state.

On 2013-APR-11, a bill was introduced into the Legislature that would allow loving, committed same-sex couples to marry. It was passed by the House. On 2013-MAY-07 at 5:05 PM local time, the bill was passed by the Senate by a comfortable margin 12 to 9. The governor signed the bill into law less than an hour after the Senate vote, saying: "I do not intend to make any of you wait one moment longer." 3

The law went into effect on 2013-JUL-01. Same-sex couples were able to pick up their marriage licenses at that time.

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Topics included in this section:

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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. Abby Rapopot, "Faster and Faster: The Same-Sex Marriage Momentum," The American Prospect, 2013-JAN-14, at:
  2. "Senate Bill #30," State of Delaware, 2011-MAY-11, at:
  3. "Delaware becomes 11th state allowing same-sex marriage after state Senate vote," Associated Press, 2013-MAY-07, at:

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Copyright 2011 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2011-JUN-26
Latest update: 2014-OCT-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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