The Delaware Senate on Thursday
approved a bill that would give gay and lesbian couples many of the
legal protections of marriage.
Democratic Senator Dave Sokola's civil
unions bill cleared the chamber with a comfortable 13 to 6 vote. (2
members were absent.)
Supporters fought off two amendments
proposed by Democratic Senator Robert Venables. One measure asked
for a public referendum on the issue, while a second opened civil
unions to heterosexual couples and family members who live together.
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.
The gay rights group Equality Delaware
(EQDE) helped lawmakers draft the legislation.
At the hearing, EQDE President Lisa
Goodman defended the bill from opponents' claims that civil unions
were just a stepping stone to marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
“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.
Representative Melanie George will
carry the bill in the Democrat-controlled House.