The Delaware Senate defeated a proposed constitutional amendment March 26 that would have defined marriage in the state as between one man and one woman. Hundreds of people gathered on the east front of Legislative Hall to show their support for the amendment, introduced by Sen. Robert L. Venables Sr., D-Laurel.
The Delaware Senate defeated a proposed constitutional amendment Thursday that would have defined marriage in the state as between one man and one woman.Hundreds of people gathered on the east front of Legislative Hall to show their support for the amendment, introduced by Sen. Robert L. Venables Sr., D-Laurel.
The demonstrators sang hymns and hoisted banners urging senators to vote yes on SB 27, but it was not enough to persuade the required two-thirds majority needed to pass a constitutional amendment.
In debate on the senate floor, Venables argued that the amendment was necessary to prevent judges from potentially overturning the state’s 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which states that Delaware recognizes only marriages between one man and one woman. “Maybe not the judges we have now, but I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” he said.
Venebles also said he and his supporters worry about what might happen if Delaware begins recognizing same-sex marriages down the road, either by statute or a court’s decision.
“If we allow gay marriage, then why not for polygamists? Or, as you could certainly stretch it to say, why not pedophiles,” he said.
Drew Fennell, executive director of ACLU Delaware, testified in opposition to the bill and said she finds the comparison of same-sex couples to criminals offensive, and that raising the issue to a constitutional level is tantamount to condemnation.
“The only reason to elevate this is to send a message of distaste,” she said.
Other senators argued that the current law is sufficient, and that a constitutional amendment is not necessary.
“My view of the constitution is that it is a document that should be a positive affirmation of the rights of people, as opposed to a document that restricts or denies the rights of the people,” said Sen. Brian J. Bushweller, D-Dover North.
In an interview earlier in the day, Gov. Jack Markell said he did not support SB 27.
“I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said. “We ought to be more focused on bringing people together rather than keeping them apart.”
After the amendment was defeated with a vote of nine yeas and 11 nays, supporters said they were not surprised.
“This was expected, it allows us to see where people are,” said Nicole Theis, executive director of the Delaware Family Policy Council. “[Supporters] understand that this is the beginning, they wanted people to go on the record.”
Venebles also said he expected the measure to fail, and that, at least for him, the matter is closed.
“We’ve got an awful lot of liberal people in there, the makeup is a lot different than when I came up here,” said Venebles, who began his legislative career in 1988. “It’s doubtful that I’ll do anything next year because that would go into another general assembly. That’s three or four more years away and I probably won’t be here then. So the issue is probably going to be dead.”
In order to pass, a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote of both legislative houses in two successive general assemblies.
E-mail Dover Post writer Doug Denison at firstname.lastname@example.org.