Legislation that would legalize gay marriage in Delaware is headed to the State Senate.
House lawmakers approved the bill in a close 23 to 18 vote on Tuesday. Five Democrats broke party ranks compared to just one Republican.
Rep. William Carson (D-Smyrna) was one of the legislators who voted against the bill. He doesn’t approve of the legislation because he views civil unions as already filling that role.
“I haven’t seen where anybody has proved that there’s any difference between civil unions and marriage,” Rep. Carson said. “I think we’re giving up what society has always defined as a marriage simply for a status symbol.”
Republicans brought in Jordan Lorence from the conservative nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom to describe how the legislation can affect business owners and others.
Lorence warned that although this bill protects religious freedoms of clergy, it doesn’t do the same for a state Clerk of the Peace who refuses to perform a gay marriage.
But bill sponsor Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear/Newark) called that a separate issue that’s already covered under the state’s discrimination statute.
“No, that’s not the First Amendment. And for you to suggest that the Delaware Clerks of the Peace will be losing their First Amendment speech, I would respectfully submit, is misleading to my colleagues,” she said.
Lisa Goodman, president of Equality Delaware, called it a “history-making vote.” Goodman, a driving force behind the bill said that constituents had expressed their support for the law and now “legislators are hearing that message, loud and clear.”
The bill makes its way to the Senate next where Democrats hold a slimmer majority.
Rep. Melanie George Smith says she believes testimony presented Tuesday will help soothe possible concerns in the other chamber.
The bill could see a committee hearing as early as next week.
Nine other states and Washington D.C have already approved same-sex marriages. Gov. Jack Markell (D) has said he will sign the legislation if the General Assembly sends it to his desk.