Delaware court orders same sex couples protection under civil union law

Judge rules two men married in California granted spousal protections under Delaware’s newly instituted same sex law.

David Theil and Kenneth Lanza were married in California in 2008.  Theil filed a sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit against his employer, Dentsply International, a dental products company.  During the course of that lawsuit, the company subpoenaed documents and testimony from Theil’s spouse, Kenneth Lanza.  

Theil saw that as a violation of his right to confidential communication with his spouse.  This right protects private conversations between married couples, starting as soon as they tie the knot.  This is where it gets tricky.  The couple was married in 2008, but that was before Delaware’s civil union law took effect at the beginning of this year.  But now, according to a court order issued in Wilmington on Friday, the right to confidential spousal communication does extend to the beginning of their marriage.

President of Equaility Delaware Lisa Goodman says the order is an affirmation of the protections for couples under the state’s civil union law.  “We believe this is the first consideration of the civil union law by a Delaware court, and are gratified that the result upholds the intent of the law.”  She says that intent is to make sure same sex couples are treated “no differently than a married couple.”  

Equality Delaware, Lambda Legal and the ACLU Delaware filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing in favor of the ruling that came down last week.

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