Governor Jack Markell declared that by signing House Bill 75 into law on May 7, 2013, Delaware was recognizing that same-sex couples who have committed to one another and pledged to spend their lives together have a love that is equally valid and deserving. The adoption of House Bill 75, titled “An act to amend Title 13 of the Delaware code relating to domestic relations to provide for same-gender civil marriage and to convert existing civil unions to civil marriage,” made Delaware the 11th state to allow same-sex couples to legally marry.
Prior to the bill’s passing, these couples were restricted to civil unions. Although civil unions had provided the same rights, benefits and protections and subjected the parties to the same responsibilities, obligations and duties as married persons, it was not considered equal. As a result, the proponents of the bill pushed for equality in name, recognition, dignity and respect for same-sex unions.
Once the bill became effective on July 1, 2013, Delaware stopped offering civil unions. However, they will continue to be recognized until they have either been dissolved or converted to marriage. Parties within a civil union have the option of applying for a marriage license to convert their union to a marriage, but the law provides that all civil unions not subject to dissolution, annulment or separation shall be converted to marriages by July 1, 2014.
The law also recognizes civil/legal unions of same-sex couples validly formed in other states and affords them with the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities that married couples of the State of Delaware receive provided they meet the requirements to marry in this state. In addition, Delaware Family Courts continue to extend jurisdiction for divorce and annulments to non-residents who entered into civil unions and marriages in the State of Delaware should they reside in states that do not recognize their marriage.
Article provided by Renee Duval, The Castro Firm