Gay marriage narrowly passes in the House, heads to the Senate

By Amy Cherry 7:19pm, April 23, 2013 - Updated 7:49pm, April 23, 2013
The same-sex marriage bill squeaks through the House after an intense and emotional two hour debate.

WDEL's Amy Cherry

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"Having received the Constitutional majority, House Bill 75 is declared passed the House," says Speaker Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf as he slams down the gavel and cheers erupt in the House chamber.

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The narrow 23-18 vote sends the same-sex marriage measure to the Senate.

But not everyone was happy with it with a handful of Democrats voting "no." Among them, Rep. Bill Carson, from Smyrna.

"We are giving up what society has always defined as a marriage, simply for a status symbol," says Carson.

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Carson was joined by Reps. Atkins, Jacques, Potter, and Paradee in their disapproval of gay marriage, but was the only Democrat to speak out against it on the House floor.

But the bill's chief sponsor Democratic Rep. Melanie George Smith says this bill is about equality for all.

"We're doing what's in the best interest of all Delawareans with this legislation that we protect everybody's freedoms. We respect your right to believe what you want to believe," says George Smith.

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State House Minority Leader Rep. Dan Short (R-Seaford) voiced his concerns about the financial implications of same-sex marriage and says he and others were deceived by the civil unions debate in 2011.

"Some of us thought, yeah the civil union was a stepping stone (to gay marriage), but we were told that it was not," says Short.

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Lawmakers heard testimony from Equality Delaware's Executive Director Mark Purpura, who says same-sex couples deserve the dignity and respect that married couples receive.

George-Smith agrees.

"The freedom to marry the person they love, be able to deserve equal respect, equal dignity, equal treatment under the law," says George Smith.

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Opponents Nicole Theis, President of Delaware's Family Policy Council, argues marriage is between one man and one woman and a child deserves a mother and a father. Rep. Harvey Kenton (R-Milford) agrees.

"To me, marriage is between one man, one woman, and God," he says.

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House Bill 75 seeks to convert all existing current civil unions to marriages.

The bill now heads to the state Senate, where it faces some tough odds.
If it passes, Governor Markell has promised to sign it.

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