The House Administration Committee released legislation on Wednesday that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, clearing the way for it to be considered by the full House on Thursday.
Senate Bill 30 would make Delaware the seventh state to allow civil unions and the 15th state to fully recognize same-sex relationships. Couples who enter into a civil union would enjoy the same rights, protections and obligations that exist for married spouses.
Rep. Melanie L. George, SB 30’s lead sponsor in the House, noted that it was less than 100 years ago when women had to fight for the right to vote, and about 50 years ago blacks were fighting against segregation and for equal rights.
“This bill promotes civil rights for all Delawareans,” said Rep. George, D-Bear. “There is no room in our government for discrimination. We are correcting a social injustice by passing this legislation.”
Supporters of the legislation noted that civil unions offer Delawareans equal protection and equal treatment under the law. Couples in a civil union would have the same protections, rights and obligations as a married couple, such as hospital visitation rights, property and last will and testament transfers, the ability to live together in nursing homes, joint adoption, and other legal issues.
Also under the bill, Delaware would recognize legal relationships that same-sex couples enter into in another jurisdiction – whether it is a civil union or same-sex marriage – and treat the relationship as a civil union.
Equality Delaware released a poll recently showing 62 percent of likely Delaware voters support civil unions for same-sex couples, twice the number that oppose civil unions. Poll results showed that more people in all three counties and nearly every demographic – men, women, seniors, residents ages 50 to 64 and younger than 50 – favor civil unions than oppose them.
Co-sponsor Rep. Terry L. Schooley said that allowing civil unions will allow all Delawareans to have a legally recognized union with the person they love and be treated and protected equally in the eyes of the law.
“Over the last 24 hours, I’ve had my faith called into question,” said Rep. Schooley, D-Newark. “I support this legislation because of my faith. I believe in a loving God who stands for equality and justice for all.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, six states have passed civil union legislation – Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Vermont. Colorado is currently considering a civil union law. Seven other states allow domestic partnerships.