RANDALL CHASE,Associated Press
ay 8, 2013
DOVER, Delaware (AP) — Tiny Delaware state became the 11th U.S. state to approve gay marriage Tuesday just as the Midwestern state of Minnesota appeared poised to become the 12th.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed legislation approved by the state Senate less than an hour earlier.
“I think this is the right thing for Delaware,” the governor said after the vote, while posing for pictures with supporters outside his legislative office. “It took an incredible team effort.”
In Minnesota, House Speaker Paul Thissen said that the 73-member Democratic majority he leads will produce at least the 68 votes needed to pass the bill. Senate leaders are also confident of passage, and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has promised to sign the bill, which would allow gay couples to marry as of Aug. 1.
“I think it’s in line with the tradition we’ve had in Minnesota about respecting people, making sure everybody is included in our community and the fullness of participation in that,” Thissen said.
Last week, Rhode Island became the 10th state to legalize gay marriage. In the Midwest, Iowa has had legal gay marriage since a 2009 judicial ruling. The Minnesota bill would make it the first Midwestern state to take the step by legislative vote, although the
Illinois Legislature also is considering a bill to legalize gay marriage.
If the bill passes, it would mark a stunning about-face on the issue in Minnesota, where only six months ago voters were asked whether they wanted to enshrine the current gay marriage ban in the state constitution. They didn’t.
Delaware’s same-sex marriage bill was introduced in the Democrat-controlled legislature last month, barely a year after the state began recognizing same-sex civil unions. The bill won passage two weeks ago in the state House on a 23-18 vote.
While it doesn’t give same-sex couples any more rights or benefits under Delaware law than those they have in civil unions, supporters argued same-sex couples deserve the dignity and respect of married couples. They also noted that if the U.S. Supreme
Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars married gay couples from receiving federal benefits, civil unions would not provide protections or tax benefits under federal law to same-sex couples in Delaware.
Opponents, including scores of conservative religious leaders from across the state, argued same-sex marriage redefines and destroys a centuries-old institution that is a building block of society.
Under the bill, no new civil unions will be performed in Delaware after July 1, and existing civil unions will be converted to marriages over the next year. The legislation also states that same-sex unions established in other states will be treated the same as marriages under Delaware law.
The bill does not force clerics to perform same-sex marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs. But under an existing Delaware law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, business owners who refuse to provide marriage-related services to same-sex couples for reasons of conscience could be subject to discrimination claims.