Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed into law Wednesday the bill legalizing same-sex civil unions.
In front of hundreds of supporters, Markell, a well-known gay rights advocate, made Delaware the eighth state to grant same-sex couples civil unions or comprehensive domestic partnerships. The law will take effect in January 1, 2012.
“The governor’s signature on this legislation moves same-sex couples in Delaware closer to equality,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Day and Lesbian Task Force. “Let’s be clear, it is not a substitute for full legal marriage, but it provides fundamental security for same-sex couples that will allow them to take care of each other and their families.”
Delaware will not issue same-sex couples marriage licenses under the state’s new civil union law, but traditional marriage proponents predict that civil unions will lead to legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. The Delaware Family Policy Council noted on its website that the language used in the bill is the same language used in the state’s marriage law, such as the concepts of divorce, parental rights, and benefits.
“Our position is it’s dishonest for the other side to talk about this issue without talking about marriage, because that’s really the goal of what they’re trying to do here,” said Jordan Warfel, policy analyst at the Delaware Family Policy Council, to NewsWorks.
Same-sex marriage is recognized in five states: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, and the District of Columbia. It was legal for a short period in California, but ended with the passage of Proposition 8, a voter ballot initiative that amended California’s Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
For now, same-sex marriage is illegal on a federal level due to the Defense of Marriage At, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman and prevents states from having to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
There are five states that currently allow same-sex civil unions: California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Hawaii and Illinois have already passed civil union laws that will take effect in June 2011 and January 2012, respectively.