The Delaware State Senate on Tuesday (7 May) passed a marriage equality bill in a 12-9 vote clearing the way for same-sex marriages to begin in the state this summer.
The senate chamber erupted in cheers after the vote which took place after three hours of heated rhetoric on both sides.
Similar legislation had already been approved by the House of Representatives which allowed Governor Jack Markell, an outspoken supporter of gay marriage, to quickly sign the bill in to law.
‘Congrats to all who were successful in their advocacy efforts,’ Markell tweeted after the signing. ‘Marriage equality is a reality in (Delaware).’
Democratic Senator Karen Peterson, a lesbian, was one of the final speakers at the senate hearing and she told her colleagues: ‘No one chose to be gay. We are what God made us. We don’t need to be fixed … If my happiness somehow demeans or diminishes your marriage, you need to work on your marriage.’
Speaking against the bill, Republican Senator Robert Venables said: ‘Things have moved a lot faster than anyone expected. I’m having problems with my own self. So far, I’ve not evolved. I wonder what’s wrong with me.’
He added: ‘I don’t wish anyone ill will, [but] I think this goes too far, to say a man marries a man and a woman marries a woman.’
A motion to table the legislation was defeated 12-9 moments before the final roll call vote. The bill will go into effect on 1 July.
Its passage comes two years after civil unions became legal in a state where in 1996 a state law was passed banning same-sex marriages.
Delaware is now the 11th US state to make same-sex marriage legal including Rhode Island just last week. The District of Columbia also allows gay marriage.
‘Today we applaud Delaware as it is set to join the growing list of states where loving same-sex couples have the freedom to marry,’ stated Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation at Lambda Legal. ‘Just last week, Rhode Island became the tenth state to grant marriage to same-sex couples and the momentum continues. It feels that we’ve been in a period of long celebration for months now, but we must remember that these victories were long in the making.’