Marriage equality has passed a major hurdle in Delaware as it passed the House Administration Committee in a vote of 4 to 1. It will now go to the full House. Governor Jack Markell has stated that he will sign the bill if it passes the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.
The measure was introduced last week a year after Delaware started civil unions.
The authors of the bill do admit that, from a state perspective, the bill will not offer much more in the way of new legal benefits to same-sex couples. Still, according to Mark Purpura of Equality Delaware, “Marriage is obviously a different status that provides a level of dignity that civil unions does not provide.”
It should be noted that, should the US Supreme Court strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, then civil unions would not be recognized by the Federal Government.
Not all of the four who voted to put the bill before the House support it. House Minority Whip Deborah Hudson, a Republican, opposes the measure, but voted to send it to the full House.
Civil unions would no longer be performed after 1 July 2013 and couples in civil unions could convert their union into a marriage at any time up to July 2014. At that point, any civil union that has not been dissolved, annulled or subject to a separation would automatically become marriages.
To date, some 500 couples have entered into civil unions in Delaware. A lot of same-sex couples, though, have gone outside of the state to get married.
Opponents, predictably, claim that the bill redefines and destroys marriage. Nicole Theis, the executive director of the Delaware Family Policy Council, stated “What this represents is a complete unraveling of what marriage is.”
It should be noted that the last century and a half has seen a great deal of redefinition of marriage within the United States and the last twenty centuries has seen a lot of changes to the definition of marriage.
Prior to roughly AD 1, marriage between a man and a woman was limited to a small number of cultures, most notably Rome and Greece. Most cultures in Europe and the Middle East practiced multiple partner marriages with the Celts of Europe practicing both multiple partner and same-sex marriages.
Prior to 1783, marriages between non-Anglicans were considered null and illegal within the American Colonies, which became the United States. Prior to 1968, interracial marriages were illegal in various American states. Prior to the 1970′s, marriage between girls as young as ten and men older than twenty were permissible.
Of course, others such as Pastor Tobe Witmer was upset at this being a secular nation and fumed that “This is against God, the word of God.” Apparently he forgets that not everyone believes that.
Richard Smith, the president of the Delaware NAACP, called marriage equality a right and stated “Nobody should be denied a privilege or anything when they’re in love. We as people cannot judge. We are not God. God will make that decision, not us.”