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Delaware Senate approves same-sex civil unions bill

Thursday, April 7, 2011
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The Delaware state Senate on Thursday approved a same-sex civil unions bill, following nearly three hours of debate.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. David Sokola (D-Newark), with about two dozen co-sponsors, would grant same-sex couples the same legal protections and responsibilities as married couples.

The bill authorizes civil unions only for same-sex couples, continuing to limit marriage under Delaware law to opposite-sex couples.

Senate lawmakers rejected two last-minute amendments to the legislation offered by Robert Venables (D-Laurel).

Venables’ first amendment would have allowed civil unions for family members, who live together, but aren’t romantically involved. The second amendment would have required that a majority of Delaware residents approve civil unions in a statewide referendum before they could take effect.

The bill was approved by a vote of 13-6, and now goes to the Delaware House of Representatives for consideration.

“Today, we applaud the Delaware Senate for valuing all Delaware families,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese, in a statement. “We call on the Delaware House to swiftly send the bill to Governor Markell for his signature.”

“We are delighted by today’s Senate vote and look forward to strong support from our sponsors in the House,” said Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman.

“It’s time for this bill to pass. It’s time for the bill to be signed. It’s the right thing to do for the people of Delaware,” said Gov. Jack Markell.

Last month, a Delaware public opinion poll revealed widespread support for civil unions.

According to the poll, more than six out of 10 voters (62%) in Delaware favor allowing same-sex couples to form civil unions, which is twice the number who oppose such a law (31%). The remaining (7%) were undecided.

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