The Delaware Senate is expected to consider on Thursday a bill that would give gay and lesbian couples many of the benefits of marriage.

Democratic Senator Dave Sokola's civil unions bill will be on the Senate floor after 2PM.

The measure cleared the six member Senate Administrations and Elections Committee with the support its four Democratic members on March 30 after members heard two hours' worth of testimony.

At the hearing, Nicole Theis, executive director of the conservative group Delaware Family Policy Council, said her group opposes the bill because it is a “dishonest” attempt to legalize gay marriage in Delaware.

“Our position is that this debate has nothing to do with civil rights, we all have the same freedom to marry a member of the opposite sex,” Theis told lawmakers. “Marriage is about bringing male and female together, and that is good. Same-sex marriage redefines marriage, saying that men and women are optional for the family.”

The gay rights group Equality Delaware (EQDE) helped lawmakers draft the legislation. Its president countered that civil unions were not marriage.

“It's not about religion, it's not about procreation, it's not about some private purpose; this bill is about fairness and equality. This is a moderate bill based on what already exists in Delaware law to provide some but not all of the rights and protections that opposite sex couples enjoy.”

At an outdoor event to introduce the measure, Democratic Governor Jack Markell told the crowd that he looked forward to signing the bill into law.

Democrats control both chambers of the General Assembly.