A gay marriage bill in Delaware cleared its final legislative hurdle on Tuesday as the state Senate gave its approval. With Democratic Governor Jack Markell previously pledging to sign the bill, Delaware is poised to become the 11th state to legalize such unions.

After a roughly three-hour debate, senators approved the measure with a narrow 12-9 vote.

Senator David Sokola, the measure's champion in the Senate, said the bill was “about the full respect and dignity that comes with marriage.”

Mark Purpura, president of Equality Delaware, walked through the various parts of the bill.

“Legal [civil] unions from other states will be considered marriage under Delaware law,” Purpura said.

Purpura explained that major differences beyond terminology exist between civil unions and marriage, including possible federal recognition if the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is struck down next month by the Supreme Court.

Jordan Lorence, an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a leading group representing clients who claim equal marriage laws violate their Christian beliefs, argued that allowing same-sex couples to marry would lead to discrimination against Christians. He warned that the bill's true objective was to foster “a cultural change” and shun opponents as “bigots.”

Lisa Goodman of Equality Delaware countered many of the claims of witnesses who warned that passage of the law would harm religious freedoms.

“If a business makes itself in a public space, it cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender and marital status,” Goodman said, referring to the state's current anti-discrimination law. “We've made a decision as Delawareans – this body made that decision – that we'll treat people equally under the law.”

Senator Karen Peterson received a round of applause when she discussed her 24-year relationship with her partner Vicki for the first time publicly.

“No one chose to be gay,” Peterson said. “We are what God made us. We don't need to be fixed. We aren't broken.”

The law is expected to take effect July 1.