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May 20, 2011

‘A new energy’

Dover, Delaware--With a flourish of his pen, accompanied by the Rainbow Chorale of Delaware, Gov. Jack Markell made his state the eighth in the nation with civil unions.

The law, which takes effect on January 1, adds Delaware to a list that includes California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, Illinois--whose measure takes effect in July--and Hawaii, which will also have civil unions as of next January.

“This is about a new energy and a new excitement,” Markell said at the signing ceremony, in front of 600 people. “It’s about a moment in our history--and make no mistake, because tonight is history--that came about because people came together, because it became clear that Delaware’s LGBT community is in fact part of every Delaware community.”

“And it’s also clear tonight that the greater good is served when we speak out and when we fight hard, when we see that bias or prejudice or even outdated laws attempt to lessen any one of us,” he noted.

“Tonight, with the signing of this law, we say to any Delawarean regardless of sexual orientation--if you have committed yourself to someone, and you’ve made that pledge to spend your life together in partnership, when life or death decisions come, we honor your right to make those decisions together,” Markell said. “Tonight, we say to loving and committed couples across the state who want the law to endorse the promise they made long ago in their hearts: Your love is equally valid and deserving, your family is now equal under the law.”

Another civil union bill is being considered in Rhode Island, where the House Judiciary Committee on May 17 voted 9-3 to send it to the full House of Representatives for a vote scheduled for May 19, the day after the Gay People’s Chronicle goes to press.

The civil union bill replaced an earlier bill that would allow full same-sex marriage when its sponsor said that he did not have enough support to pass the marriage law. While supporters of full marriage protested the change, some lawmakers who opposed the marriage law have said that they will vote for civil unions.

Other legislators plans to introduce an amendment to transform the bill back into full marriage when it is debated in the House.

In New York, the governor is pushing for full same-sex marriage, urging citizens to tell their legislators to either pass same-sex marriage, ethics reform and a property tax cap by the end of the legislative session on June 20, or not to bother coming home.

A surprising amount of the financing for the New York campaign to pass same-sex marriage comes from an unusual source: wealthy Republican donors. Some have LGBT children, some were drafted by former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman, who came out after leaving the post, and others make the argument that states with progressive laws attract businesses.

The bill is expected to pass the House of Representatives fairly easily, but faces a tougher challenge in the Republican-controlled Senate, where it died after some Democrats voted against it when they controlled the chamber.

However, the sight of so many prominent GOP donors supporting the bill is thought to be able to sway enough Republican senators to pass it.

--Anthony Glassman











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