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Earlier this evening the Delaware House of Representatives passed a civil unions bill by a vote of 26 to 15.  SB 30, which passed the state Senate earlier this month, will allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions giving them all of the rights, benefits, and obligations of marriage under state law, but will not allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses. Religious institutions may choose not to solemnize civil unions.  The bill now goes to Governor Markell for his signature.

HRC worked closely with our partner Equality Delaware in the fight for civil unions in the First State.  Following the vote, HRC President Joe Solmonese made the following statement:

“Today, we celebrate a victory for all Delaware families who will have the tools to protect themselves in good times and in bad. We look forward to Governor Markell signing this bill into law and thank Senator Sokola and Representative George for their leadership on this bill, and Equality Delaware for their tireless dedication.”

Delaware will be the eighth state to offer civil unions or comprehensive domestic partnerships. After the bill is signed into law, it will take effect on Jan. 1, 2012. Currently, five states have laws providing an expansive form of state-level relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples, without offering marriage.  California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington provide same-sex couples with access to almost of all the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships. Earlier this year, the governors of Hawaii and Illinois signed into law civil unions bills. Couples in Illinois can begin applying for civil union licenses on June 1, 2011 and in Hawaii couples can begin applying on Jan. 1, 2012.

Same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state.  For an electronic map showing where marriage equality stands in the states, please visit: http://www.HRC.org/State_Laws

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