One bill to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage via amendment failed. Another prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment, public works contracting, public accommodations and insurance passed. All in one day in the Blue Hen State.
More than 1,000 demonstrators wearing white T-shirts with the slogan "One Man, One Woman -- That's Marriage" rallied on the steps of Legislative Hall as, inside, both chambers engaged in lengthy debates colored by accusations of discrimination past and present. They even went as far as circling the whole statehouse building so as not to be ignored.
The first bill, SB 27, sought to make an existing law that marriage was between one man and one woman stronger by amending the state's constitution, thus making it harder to overturn.
"I believe that the constitution ... should be not a place where rights are restricted but where there is a positive affirmation of the rights of all of the people of Delaware," Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, said.
The anti-gay legislation was sponsored by Sen. Robert Venables, D-Laurel, who said he wanted to make the already-illegal practice part of the state Constitution to prevent courts from being able to overturn the law.
Venables said other states have seen their legal bans overturned when courts ruled the laws were a violation of civil rights.
Far from gaining the three-fifths majority necessary for an amendment to progress, the bill was voted down 11-9.
The second pro-gay bill, HB 5, passed with a 26-14 vote which was expected since similar legislation has passed the House three times before, but died each time in the Senate without a vote.
"This is equal-rights legislation, not special-rights legislation," said the bill's chief sponsor, House Majority Leader Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach. "This legislation is based on the very foundation on which our country stands -- that we treat all of our citizens with dignity and respect, and that includes respecting the human rights of all people."
For a blow by blow count of the hearings, read the Delaware Online account.
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