Equality Delaware led the push for the civil union law in Delaware in 2011. The law was passed by the General Assembly, and signed by Governor Jack Markell. It went into effect on New Year's Day last year, and in 2012, 571 same-sex couples entered into civil unions, with women entering into nearly twice as many civil unions as men.
Thursday night, Equality Delaware hosted a town hall meeting about same-sex marriage at CAMP Rehoboth. The meeting drew a standing room-only crowd that included supportive clergy and even Sussex County Clerk of the Peace John Brady and House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf. Schwartzkopf said he will support legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. Equality Delaware gave a timeline of where gay rights have come from, where they are now, and where they want to go into the future. Attendees were also informed about what they can do to help the cause. Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman says 2013 is the year for Delaware to follow in the footsteps of nearby states that have legalized same-sex marriage, including New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. She says the LGBT community has support from Governor Markell, Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn, the Attorney General's Office, and leadership in the General Assembly. Governor Markell is on record as supporting same-sex marriage, and says it's inevitable in Delaware.
Currently, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996 and Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, will be brought before the U.S. Supreme Court. Goodman says DOMA has been ruled unconstititutional in every federal court in which it's been tried, and she's confident the Supreme Court will also declare it unconstitutional. If the law is overturned, it means same-sex couples can take advantage of the same tax benefits and credits that straight couples currently can. Last year, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that while the federal government will still enforce DOMA, it will no longer defend the law in court. Even if the law is upheld as constitutional, Goodman says Delaware should still recognize the rights of gay and lesbian couples. Speaker Schwartzkopf says legalizing same-sex marriage is long overdue, while Brady says times have changed since DOMA was passed.
Goodman says a law legalizing same-sex marriage, like the current civil union law, would only apply to civil ceremonies performed by the county Clerks of the Peace. If a law is passed, she says couples can convert their civil unions into a marriage. Under the current civil union law, same-sex marriages performed in another state are recognized as civil unions when a couple moves to Delaware.
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