Delaware marriage equality bill heads to Senate floor

Gay marriage is one step closer to becoming a reality in Delaware.

Delaware’s marriage equality bill cleared the Senate Executive Committee and is now headed to the Delaware senate floor early next week.

From pastors to life partners, committee members heard testimony from both sides of the issue this afternoon.

Retired veteran Ron Tipton said he and his partner of 49 years are already “married in their hearts” despite the many obstacles they’ve faced and would like to be recognized legally.

“We have lived our lives together with the always present fear that we would be fired, humiliated, harassed, threatened with physical harm or even arrested just for loving each other,” said Tipton.

Roberta Price, a retired Navy nurse commander, was one of a handful of gay veterans who argued that civil unions currently don’t protect or benefit the spouses of gay service members because they aren’t legally married.

“If their spouse is injured or killed, they will not be notified. There will be no phone call, no one in uniform will come to their door to tell them their spouse has been killed. They will not be permitted to claim the body and they will receive no benefits as their heterosexual counterpart’s spouses do,” said Price.

Jon Rania was legally married to his partner in Massachusetts a few years ago, but their union is not recognized in Delaware.

“Imagine if you were suddenly not married to your wife or husband simply because you crossed the state line,” said Rania. “It’s crazy, it’s humiliating and it’s wrong.”

Rania said he would like to be legally married to his partner for the sake of their two sons.

“For our children, marriage means that their parents will have the same dignity and recognition as other parents. It means that they will know that their government views us as equals under the law,” said Rania.

Nicole Theis, president of Delaware Family Policy Council said re-defining marriage to include same-sex couples changes the values of parenting and “deprives” children from the chance to experience both a mother and a father.

“Marriage is based on the truth that men and women are complimentary,” said Theis. “The biological fact [is] that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the reality that children need a mother and a father. By voting yes on HB 75, you’re rejecting these truths. By re-defining it, you’re saying that gender doesn’t matter. You’re saying that two moms are equal to a dad or two dads are equal to a mom.”

Pastor Chris Rue of the Word of Life Christian Center in Newark argued that marriage can’t be applied to homosexuals because they aren’t “monogamous.”

“If we’re going to talk about marriage which has been defined as a monogamous relationship in terms of fidelity, then there are things we need to understand about the bulk of homosexual behavior as a whole,” said Rue. “I know from listening to first hand accounts, and I know from doing statistical research that the whole concept of monogamy and fidelity is defined differently in the homosexual community and the heterosexual community.”

“The average male homosexual in a lifetime will have between 100 and 500 sexual partners and most will only be for one time,” said Rue.

Senator David Sokola was one of the bill’s sponsors and said he was pleased with today’s debate.

“I feel very good about what was said on behalf of House Bill 75, I think we made a terrific case on the merits for the bill,” said Sokola.

The bill heads to the Senate floor on Tuesday. Governor Jack Markell has already said that if the bill passes, he will sign it into law and gay couples could marry as early as July.

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