With Gov. Jack Markell signing HB 75 into law on Wednesday, Delaware has now become the 11th state to allow gay marriages.
Echoing the celebration in Rhode Island last week, Gov. Markell marked the historic moment on Twitter: "Congrats to all who were successful in their advocacy efforts," he told his followers, according to The Huffington Post. "Marriage equality is a reality."
Delaware becomes the latest colonial state to allow same-sex marriage, and like Rhode Island, it also makes civil unions a thing of the past.
Conversion of Civil Unions
Under Delaware's new law, same-sex partners currently in a civil union can receive a marriage license as early as July 1 -- the same day Delaware's first same-sex nuptials are planned, reports the Associated Press.
Delaware is giving these civil union couples a choice. They can either:
- Apply for a marriage license, with no extra requirements, between July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014, or
- Wait until July 1, 2014, at which point all civil unions in the state will automatically be converted to marriages.
Recognition of Out-of-State Unions
In light of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and a messy patchwork of state laws, Delaware's new law will afford out-of-state civil unions and domestic partnerships the same rights and privileges as married couples if:
- The civil union or domestic partnership was legal in the other state, and
- The other state provides civil unions or domestic partners the same rights as married couples.
This means that regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court's Prop 8 case, domestic partners from California (and most other states that allow such unions) would be treated like married couples in Delaware.
Protection From Discrimination
There has been the predictable backlash from conservatives including the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, which believes that the removal of gender from the definition of marriage means "all bets are off," according to the AP.
The new law does not require clergy members to solemnize or perform same-sex marriages if they find them objectionable. But for caterers and others in the wedding industry, Delaware's existing equal-accomodations law already prohibits sexual orientation discrimination.
This means wedding cake bakers, floral shop owners, and even musicians may not refuse to work with a couple on their wedding simply because they are gay, without violating Delaware law.
Now Delaware gay couples can have their wedding cake and eat it too.