Senate passes civil unions

By Amy Cherry 5:49pm, April 7, 2011 - Updated 4:31am, April 8, 2011
The state Senate passes same sex civil unions following nearly three hours of debate.

WDEL's Amy Cherry has more.

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Senate Bill 30, sponsored by Sen. Dave Sokola (D-Newark), passed in a vote 13-6, with two absent.

The standing room only crowd burst into cheers after the measure was passed.

Sokola calls the debate "spirited" and says the issue of civil unions is one of "economic fairness"

By legalizing civil unions, same sex couples would be able to enjoy many of the tax and medical benefits heterosexual couples enjoy.

"I think the Senate did something good today," says Sokola.

Lisa Goodman, Executive Director of Equality Delaware, agreed.

"We are so thrilled that we had 13 Senators, who did the right thing, stood up for equality today," says Goodman.

Senator Bob Venables (D-Laurel) voted, "no" on the measure after two amendments he added were rejected.

Venables' first amendment would have allowed civil unions for family members, who live together, but aren't romantically involved. His second amendment would have created a referendum that would give Delawareans the opportunity to vote on the issue in November.

Senator Colin Bonini (R-So. Dover) also voted against the measure, citing the cost. He projects civil unions will cost the state $2.6 million over three years.

Other opponents say this measure is paving the way for gay marriage. But Goodman says this paves the way for equality.

"They use marriage as a scare tactic because they know that Delawareans by a margin of of 2 to 1 support civil unions, and that's what this is. It's a civil union bill."

The measure now heads to the House, where if it passes, the Governor is poised to sign it.

Immediately after the vote, Governor Markell tells WDEL he's pleased.

"It's time for this bill to pass. It's time for the bill to be signed. It's the right thing to do for the people of Delaware," says Markell.

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