BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — By a vote of 12 to nine, Delaware senators approved House Bill 75 today (May 7), making the American state the 11th to legalize gay marriage, Pink News reports.
Governor Jack Markell, who has already signed the bill into law, tweeted, "Congrats to all who were successful in their advocacy efforts — marriage equality is a reality in [Delaware]."
Same-sex couples can begin applying for marriage licences from July 1.
The Senate vote followed a 23 to 18 General Assembly vote in favour of the bill about two weeks ago.
According to the report, the bill safeguards religious freedoms; no religious society, clergyperson or minister of any religion will be forced to solemnize any marriage if doing so conflicts with their beliefs.
The measure, which repeals the prohibition of same-gender marriage enacted in 1996, will also allow the relationships of same-sex couples that are recognized in other jurisdictions to be treated as a marriage in accordance with Delaware law.
According to Gay Star News, Senator Robert Venables, an opponent of the bill, said that things "have moved a lot faster than anyone expected" and that he's "having problems with my own self."
"So far, I've not evolved. I wonder what's wrong with me," Venables continued, adding that he doesn't "wish anyone ill will," but the bill "goes too far, to say a man marries a man and a woman marries a woman."
Freedom to Marry's national campaign director, Marc Solomon, said in a written statement, "As happy couples and their loved ones celebrate and prepare for the first weddings in Delaware – following the win in Rhode Island just a few days ago – this milestone sends yet another message to the Supreme Court that it’s time for marriage for all Americans. Freedom to Marry is proud of its work with Equality Delaware to secure this victory, and we look forward to surging forward and continuing the momentum in Illinois and Minnesota later this month.”
Rhode Island became the 10th state to green-light gay marriage last week after an overwhelming 56 to 15 House vote; Governor Lincoln Chafee has now signed the measure into law.
Nine other states — Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, Maine, Maryland, Washington — and Washington, DC, have also legalized gay marriage.