Civil union bill heading for Del. House

It appears the only thing standing in the way of a law that would give same-sex couples in Delaware many of the same rights as heterosexual married couples is approval by the state House of Representatives.

The bill allowing same-sex civil unions passed the Senate on a 13-to-6 vote Thursday in Dover and now goes to the House.

“I’m very optimistic,” said Rep. Teresa Schooley (D-Newark), one of the bill’s 27 sponsors, and one of 19 in the House of Representatives. “The fact that it passed by a 2-to-1 margin in the Senate I think is phenomenal and I think bodes well for what’s going to happen in the House next week.”

The measure is expected to be heard in committee next Wednesday and, if approved, should be ready for a House vote the following day. Next Thursday is the last day of the legislative session before a two-week break.

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The bill already has the support of Gov. Jack Markell.

“I’m certainly pleased that Senate Bill 30 has passed the Senate,” Markell said. “It’s an important step. The House of Representatives is next and I look forward to signing the bill.”

Legislation adding sexual orientation to Delaware’s anti-discrimination laws has been shot down in the past, but Schooley says she’s seen a drastic change in public opinion in just the past year.

“I think people are ready for it,” Schooley said. “A lot more people that I didn’t expect would be signing on to this bill as co-sponsors are now co-sponsors. People start realizing that they have friends and relatives and people that they work with who really believe that this is something they need to have for their lives.”

Supporters say the bill provides equal rights for homosexuals. Opponents argue that it is a prelude to establishing same-sex marriage in Delaware.

The legislation would authorize civil unions only for same-sex couples, continuing to limit marriage under Delaware law to opposite-sex couples.


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