Delaware Introduces Civil Unions Bill
March 23, 2011 by Sarah Warbelow, Legal Director
Yesterday, at a press conference on the steps of Legislative Hall in Dover, primary sponsors Senator David Sokola and Representative Melanie George introduced a comprehensive civil unions bill to great fanfare. Speaking impassionedly, they explained that now is the time for state law to catch up with the reality of people’s daily lives.
The bill, SB 30, would provide all of the rights, benefits, and obligations of marriage to same-sex couples, but would not allow same-sex couples to obtain a marriage license. Civil unions, though short of full marriage, would ensure that same-sex couples in Delaware have the ability to make medical decisions for one another, jointly adopt their children, make end of life decisions, and inherit property, among so many other vital rights. Currently, the bill has 29 co-sponsors between the Senate and House, out of a 62 member joint legislature.
Delaware Governor Jack Markell offered his support for the bill, strongly and publicly. At the press conference he offered the follow:
“A few months ago, there was a candlelight vigil attended by hundreds of Delawareans who had come to mourn the loss of a young life. It was a moment for heartbreak – to hear the story of so much potential wasted, so much thrown away, so much anguish focused so fully on one person that suicide seemed to him the easier choice than having to live with hatred directed at him because of his sexual orientation. More heartbreaking even, is how that scenario happens again and again, across the country. But that night, so many Delawareans stepped up and shared their own stories – stories of hope, stories of promise, stories of how far our neighbors and our state have come. How we can say to young people like that college student – live a life of accomplishment. Build a business, and a family. Embrace the opportunities before you because that hatred you’re facing has no place here. Today, and in the days ahead, we will hear more stories. How we can someday hope to say, with legislation like this bill today – 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 will respect your right to make those decisions together. How can the state, in good conscience, say to someone – “you have dedicated your life to someone for years. Your partner trusts you to make their medical decisions if they become incapacitated and don’t have a living will but we, the state, do not?” Or say to a child that had been raised since birth in a home of love, hope and help that because both of those parents happen to be men or women that if the parent who was the legal guardian dies, you lose the legal rights and protections to be raised by the other? That, when your world has been torn apart, the law may tear it further? Those are just some of the reasons we are here today to show our support for this bill. I want to thank the bill sponsors and the legislators here for their years of work on expanding these freedoms. It has not been an easy fight and it’s possible that this bill may not have an easy time as well. Let’s be clear – just two years ago, until we signed a law to change it, it was legal in Delaware to be fired because of your sexual orientation. Anti-gay and lesbian discrimination was legal simply because the law had not caught up to the times. Well, the time is here and the time is now – and this legislation will move us forward, together.”
HRC is proud to be working with Equality Delaware to bring the civil unions bill to this point and will work tirelessly to see it signed into law.