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UPDATED: Delaware Senate OKs marriage-equality bill, and governor signs it into law

DOVER, Dela. – The Delaware Senate voted 12-9 today to approve a marriage-equality bill, which was passed last month by the General Assembly.

Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, sign the bill into law just minutes after the vote. Weddings can begin in Delaware on July 1, 2013.

Before the vote, Senators and witnesses took both sides of the issue, although a majority of the speakers were in favor of the bill.

One of the more passionate speakers was Sen. Karen Peterson, who publicly came out, saying that she and her partner Vicki have been together for 24 years and entered into a civil union last year when it was legalized in Delaware. "If my happiness somehow demeans or diminishes your marriage, you need to work on your marriage," she said, drawing laughter from the gallery.

"No one chose to be gay. We are what God made us. We don't need to be fixed. We're not broken. ... We aren't trying to redefine marriage. We are trying to expand it to include all loving couples," she said.

Sen. Dave Sokola talked about how many stable families were living in Delaware, and wanted to make sure all were treated fairly.

Sen. Robert I. Marshall said: "Today we must decide if it should be the policy of Delaware if it is the right of all Delawareans to marry who they love."

Sen. Bryan Townsend said: Same-sex couples in our communities are already demonstrating the commitment of marriage.”

Sen. Robert L. Venables Sr. displayed his rampant homophobia, trying to justify his “no” vote by cherry-picking biblical passages that neatly fit into his worldview. Of course he didn’t note that many passages of the Bible are no longer accepted in modern society, such as support for slavery and condemnation for eating shellfish. The Senator, who was born in 1933, said he could not fathom why a man would want to marry a man.

Sen. Gerald Hocker spoke against the bill, evoking Revelations and Judgment Day.

The anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund spewed out hysteria and lies in an attempt to persuade the Senators to defeat the bill. The ADF attorney argued that businesses would be sued, adoption agencies would be forced to close, and people who disagree with same-sex marriage would be labeled bigots and homophobes.

The anti-gay speakers had little effect on the final vote, though.

Delaware will become the 11th U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage. The state legalized same-sex civil unions in 2011, and that law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

In the United States, same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island (Aug. 1, 2013), Vermont and Washington -- and in Washington, D.C. It also is legal within the Coquille Indian tribe in Oregon, the Suquamish Indian tribe in Washington state and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Michigan.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France (June 2013), Iceland, the Netherlands (and the Caribbean island of Saba), New Zealand (August 2013), Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay (July 2013, no later than Aug. 1).

In Mexico, same-sex marriage is available in the Federal District (Mexico City) and in the states of Oaxaca and Quintana Roo. The marriages are recognized nationwide by Supreme Court order.

In Brazil, same-sex marriage is legal in the states of Alagoas, Bahia, Paraíba, Rondônia, Santa Catarina and São Paulo. Elsewhere in Brazil, same-sex couples can enter into a "stable union" then go before a judge and convert the union into a full marriage.

The reaction

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin:

“As America waits for rulings from the Supreme Court on two historic marriage cases, Delaware today took decisive action and guaranteed equality for the thousands of gay and lesbian couples of that great state. Thanks to principled impatience from state leaders in Dover, the momentum for LGBT equality continues unabated.”

Equality Delaware president Lisa Goodman:

"In the years of hard work we have undertaken in Delaware, HRC has been an invaluable partner. Their expertise and financial contributions have been a huge part of getting us where we are today."

Susan Sommer, director of Constitutional Litigation at Lambda Legal:

"Today we applaud Delaware as it is set to join the growing list of states where loving same-sex couples have the freedom to marry. Just last week, Rhode Island became the tenth state to grant marriage to same-sex couples and the momentum continues. It feels that we've been in a period of long celebration for months now, but we must remember that these victories were long in the making.

"Today, we celebrate with the thousands of Delaware same-sex couples and their children who will soon be able to have the full recognition and respect accorded to married families. We congratulate our colleagues at Equality Delaware and many other advocates who fought so hard for this victory.

"Just two years ago, after civil unions went into effect in the state, Lambda Legal asked Delaware couples to sign on to our civil union tracker to make sure their rights were being respected. We congratulate Delaware same-sex couples for pressing forward to win the freedom to marry."

Jane Wishon, Marriage Equality USA board member:

"We are living in times of historic change. Right after Rhode Island became the 10th marriage equality state, Delaware has become the 11th -- the entire nation is now watching to see just how quickly Illinois, Minnesota, or one of the many other states moving forward will become number 12."

John Lewis, Marriage Equality USA legal director:

"As the U.S. Supreme Court deliberates the marriage equality cases, we take great encouragement from the ever-increasing number of states establishing the freedom to marry. Already one-fifth of the states have done so, and that percentage very soon could surpass one-quarter. It's just a question of time before all of America embraces full civil marriage equality, and that time is now."

Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry:

“Today’s historic vote makes Delaware the eleventh state across the U.S. where loving and committed couples can share in the joy and protections that marriage brings. As happy couples and their loved ones celebrate and prepare for the first weddings in Delaware – following the win in Rhode Island just a few days ago – this milestone sends yet another message to the Supreme Court that it’s time for marriage for all Americans. Freedom to Marry is proud of its work with Equality Delaware to secure this victory, and we look forward to surging forward and continuing the momentum in Illinois and Minnesota later this month.”

Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.