Delaware Gay Marriage Bill Passes; 11th State to Legalize Same-Sex Unions

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Delaware became the 11th U.S. State to legalize same-sex marriage Tuesday following a lengthy debate and a close vote in its legislative body.

Rainbow Flag Del

A half hour after the 12-9 State Senate vote, Gov. Jack Markell (D) signed the legislation into law on the main stairs in the lobby of Legislative Hall.

Sens. Bethany Hall-Long (D) and Catherine Cloutier (R), the lone GOP yes vote, provided the crucial swing votes in favor of the gay marriage legislation.

Delawareans will be able to enter into same-sex marriages July 1, and existing same-sex civil unions in Delaware can also be converted to marriages.

"I think this is the right thing for Delaware," Markell said, posing for pictures with supporters outside his legislative office. "It took an incredible team effort."

Delaware's same-sex marriage bill was introduced in the Democrat-controlled Legislature last month, passing the state House on a 23-18 vote.

While it doesn't give same-sex couples many more rights than those they already have in civil unions, supporters argued it was about respect - and more.

They noted that civil unions would not provide the same kind of federal protections or tax benefits under federal law to same-sex couples as marriage does.

Marriage Map

Delaware joins neighboring Maryland and nearby D.C. as jurisdictions that have approved gay marriage. All six New England states allow it as well.

Last week, Rhode Island's gay marriage law passed, allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed, with independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee signing the bill.

California would become the 12th state to legalize it if the Supreme Court upholds appellate court decisions to throw out Prop 8 as unconstitutional.

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