A bill that would give gay and lesbian
couples many of the legal protections of marriage will be debated in
the Delaware House on Thursday.
Democratic Senator Dave Sokola's civil
unions bill cleared the Democrat-controlled, 5-member House
Administration Committee with a 3 to 1 vote on Wednesday.
The measure cleared the Senate with a
comfortable 13 to 6 vote last Thursday after supporters fought off
two amendments sponsored by Democratic Senator Robert Venables.
Opponents in the House have already
announced they'll introduce 6 amendments on the floor Thursday.
One measure would ask for a public
referendum on the issue, while a second would open civil unions to
heterosexual couples and family members who live together.
At a Senate hearing last week, Equality
Delaware 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.
Three states – Illinois, Hawaii and
New Jersey – currently offer civil unions. Despite widespread
support in the state, a
GOP-controlled Colorado House committee killed a similar measure
earlier this month.
If the measure is approved by Delaware
lawmakers, it would represent the first time such a measure is
successful in its first outing.