Legislation signed by Governor Jack
Markell on Wednesday makes Delaware the fourth state to recognize the
relationships of gay and lesbian couples with civil unions.
Markell signed the law that gives gay
couples most of the legal protections of marriage before 600 cheering
supporters. The legislation goes into effect on January 1, 2012.
“Tonight, with the signing of this
law, we say to any Delawarean regardless of sexual orientation - if
you’ve committed yourself to someone, and you’ve made that pledge
to spend your life together in partnership, when life or death
decisions come, we honor your right to make those decisions
together,” Markell told the crowd.
“Tonight, we say to loving and
committed couples across the state who want the law to endorse the
promise that they made long ago in their hearts - 'Your love is
equally valid and deserving, your family is now equal under the
“And tonight, we say to children of
gay and lesbian parents in committed relationships all over our state
– and there are so many wonderful kids, including many here
tonight, growing up in those families all over our state – we say
to you: It doesn't matter if your parents are gay or straight. The
people you love and look up to and that are dedicating their lives
and love to raising you – those are your parents.”
“You are a family. And while we’ve
known it, and you’ve known it for years, tonight, that equality
becomes real under law,” he added.
Delaware lawmakers made quick work of
the bill, going from introduction to passage in the Legislature in
just over 3 weeks. By contrast, similar recent victories in Hawaii
and Illinois took years to accomplish. And New Jersey adopted civil
unions only after a mandate from the state's highest court.
GOP-controlled Colorado House committee killed a similar measure in
While praising the legislation, gay
rights advocates lamented the fact that marriage remains out of reach
for gay couples in Delaware.
“The governor's signature on this
legislation moves same-sex couples in Delaware closer to equality,”
said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian
Task Force. “Let's be clear, it is not a substitute for full legal
marriage, but it provides fundamental security for same-sex couples
that will allow them to take care of each other and their families.
This is a reason to celebrate.”
Lawmakers in Rhode Island began debate
on a similar measure on Wednesday.