(DOVER, Del.) — Delaware became the 11th state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage when Democratic Gov. Jack Markell signed a gay marriage bill into law just minutes after its passage by the state Senate on Tuesday.
“I do not intend to make any of you wait one moment longer,” a smiling Markell told about 200 jubilant supporters who erupted in cheers and applause following the 12-9 Senate vote barely half an hour earlier.
“Delaware should be, is and will be a welcoming place to live and love and to raise a family for all who call our great state home,” Markell said.
Delaware’s same-sex marriage bill was introduced in the Democrat-controlled legislature barely a year after the state began recognizing same-sex civil unions. The bill won passage two weeks ago in the state House on a 23-18 vote.
(MORE: How Gay Marriage Won)
While it doesn’t give same-sex couples any more rights or benefits under Delaware law than they have in civil unions, supporters argued that same-sex couples deserve the dignity and respect of married couples. They also noted that if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars married gay couples from receiving federal benefits, civil unions would not provide protections or tax benefits under federal law to same-sex couples in Delaware.
“All couples under the law should be treated equally by their government,” Lisa Goodman told lawmakers near the end of Tuesday’s three-hour debate. Goodman is president of Equality Delaware, a gay rights group that drafted the legislation and led the effort to get it passed.
Under the bill, no new civil unions will be performed in Delaware after July 1, and existing civil unions will be converted to marriages over the next year. The legislation also states that same-sex unions established in other states will be treated the same as marriages under Delaware law.