Delaware Readies For Same-Sex Marriage Civil Unions In The New Year

When the ball drops Saturday night, several same-sex couples in Delaware won’t just be kissing in the New Year—they’ll be consummating their legal bonds, as the state’s civil union law goes into effect on January 1.

In March, state senators David Sokola and Melanie George introduced a bill allowing civil unions that provided rights that were “substantially equal to marriage.” The bill passed both houses of the Delaware State Assembly on the first pass this spring and Governor Jack Markell signed into law on May 11.

Equality Delaware’s Lisa Goodman and her longtime partner, Drewry Fennell, will be among the first couples to take advantage of the law when they tie the knot at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Wilmington. Other couples will do the deed at the New Castle County’s Clerk Office: Like most government offices it’s usually closed on New Year’s Day but County Clerk Kenneth W. Boulden is making an exception. (Kenny, you old softie!)

As NewsWorks reports, one couple has been waiting nearly a quarter-century for this chance:

George [Spector] and Norman [Everett] met one night in a bar 23 years ago, when George’s mother insisted that he go out and have some fun following a bad break-up.  “I had been in a bad relationship so, I was spending a lot of time by myself, and she told me, she said, ‘George you really need to go out’ and I was like ‘no, I don’t want to,’ and she said, ‘you’re going to meet somebody special tonight, I really want you to go out,’ so I said ‘okay’,” George said.

He and Norman met that night and have been together ever since.

George and Norman did have other options. They could have been married in a civil union in another state but it was important to them to be married in their home state of Delaware.  “We live here, and this is where we wanted to be. We have options, we could’ve gone to Massachusetts, or whatever, but we thought that we would wait to see what happened here and it would mean a lot more to us if the civil union bill was here and it’s passed and it means a lot to do it in Delaware,” Norman said.

Like most same-sex couples, Spector and Everett aren’t just looking forward to the emotional symbolism legal unions will provide. Spector tells NewsWorks it’s the fact that his husband will have the right to make decisions as his next-of-kin that matters to him:

I’m getting older, and George knows me better than anybody else in this world; he knows that [it’s] quality of life that I want, not quantity. He will know, when to pull the plug, he will be able to do that… He now has the right to be in that hospital room with me or, if I pick up a set of keys and I don’t know what they’re for, he knows it’s time to do the right thing for me. He has the choice now; he can make those decisions.

Perhaps not the cheeriest sentiment, but an important one nonetheless.

With the new law, same-sex marriages performed in other states will be recognized in Delaware. Moving forward, though, the Delaware Right to Marry PAC says it will work to phase out civil unions and introduce full marriage equality in 2013.

Meanwhile, homophobic ex-Senator (and avowed non-witch) Christine O’Donnell, 42, is still single. We’re loving the irony.

Images via jclouser, Jeffrey James Keyes