Another state has voted against discrimination, choosing love and inclusion for all couples who want to marry, with leaders from the United Church of Christ celebrating another historic moment in the movement for full marriage equality. On Tuesday, May 7, Delaware became the 11th state to pass a law extending marriage equality to all citizens.
The Rev. John Deckenback, Conference Minister for the Central Atlantic Conference of the UCC, can celebrate that two states in the conference — Maryland and now Delaware — have chosen to allow LGBT couples the freedom to marry in a sixth-month span.
"We are delighted that Delaware is joining Maryland and the District of Columbia in affirming marriage equality," Deckenback said. "Members of our congregations in Newark and Milton have championed this effort. The UCC spirit of inclusion and equality for all lives on."
The Delaware Senate voted Tuesday evening on the bill, passing it by a 12-9 margin. The law passed the Delaware House at the end of April by a 23-18 vote. Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed the bill into law late Tuesday, which allows LGBT couples to marry beginning July 1. The state previously allowed same-sex civil unions, and those will convert to marriages.
The Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, the UCC's executive for LGBT concerns, is pleased to celebrate the victory in Delaware, and congratulated the efforts of UCC pastors in the area who worked to get the bill passed.
"It's overwhelming how the support for marriage equality grows and grows. This is another tremendous victory for LGBT equality, and for Delaware," he said. "I'm proud that people UCC contributed to the efforts to bring full equality to Delaware. Our faith compels us to treat everyone with worth and dignity, and to celebrate the love and commitment two people make when they marry each other."
Delaware's approval of the bill came quickly on the heels of the actions of Rhode Island's lawmakers, who approved marriage equality legislation in late April. In other parts of the country, Illinois, Minnesota and New Jersey are also considering marriage equality legislation. The pending laws might also be a reflection of how public opinion has changed on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Delaware is the fifth state since November to affirm the right to marriage for all citizens, with Maine, Maryland and Washington all passing public referendum's during the 2012 election season. In a Public Religion Research Institute survey, a majority (52 percent) of Americans favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, compared to 42 percent who are opposed. That survey also showed that along religious lines, more than 8-in-10 (81 percent) Jewish Americans, roughly three-quarters (76 percent) of religiously unaffiliated Americans, 59 percent of Hispanic Catholics, 58 percent of white Catholics, and 55 percent of white mainline Protestants favor allowing LGBT couples to legally wed.
The UCC's General Synod affirmed full marriage equality for all couples in 2005, and there are now more than 1,000 open and affirming churches registered with the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns.
Delaware joins 10 other states, along with Washington, D.C., that permit same-sex marriages: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.