Will Delaware Legalize Gay Marriage?

The governor says it could happen as early as next year

The governor with members of Equality Delaware when he signed civil unions into law (courtesy of Equality Delaware)

Delaware’s Gov. Jack Markell has long been an advocate for marriage equality. He recently told reporters that he expects that same-sex marriage could be legalized in The First State as early as next year. “Inevitable” is the word he used, saying that the state’s legislature will likely be taking up the issue sooner than many thought.

Delaware has already legalized civil unions since April of last year. But as most same-sex couples know, civil unions do not provide the same rights as marriage in most states.

And while the governor admits that it requires his support to achieve marriage equality in the state, he credits LGBT groups with advancing the cause among both voters and legislators.

“I think it’s always important to have gubernatorial leadership, but the other thing it’s very helpful to have – the real hero of getting civil unions done – was not me,” he said. “The real hero and heroine were a couple of people who led a group called Equality Delaware.”

The LGBT group formed to help end discrimination in the state, helping to draft what has become the civil union legislation. Now, both Markell and Equality Delaware are pushing for gay marriage. The organization also has interests in the recognition of marriage on a federal level, and the repeal of DOMA – perhaps marriage equality’s biggest stumbling block, even in states that have legalized it for same-sex couples – as well as transgender protections, immigration and youth and bullying issues.

Members of Equality Delaware are hosting a free LGBT Summer Update and Path Forward event this month (Aug. 21 at 5:30 p.m.) at the First and Central Presbyterian Church, 1101 Market Street, in Wilmington. Details are to be posted on the group’s Facebook page.

The governor has been joined by other legislators who support recognition of same-sex relationships and family. “Research has shown that children living in loving and committed families – no matter their makeup – are going to thrive,” said Rep. Terry L. Schooley when the civil union legislation was signed. “What we have seen through testimony is that families with same-sex couples are struggling because our laws don’t allow them to be recognized. We are rectifying things so families with same-sex couples can stand just as strongly as families with opposite-sex couples.”