The state of Delaware's path toward marriage equality took a gigantic leap toward reality Thursday when Gov. Jack Markell, members of the General Assembly and other state and local dignitaries celebrated the pre-filing of legislation Thursday that would allow same-sex couples to marry.
Markell, primary sponsors State Rep. Melanie George Johnson (D-Bear) and State Sen. Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) and other politicians gathered at Freedom Plaza between the Carvel State Building and the City/County Building in Wilmington to mark the occasion.
George and Blevins also sponsored the civil unions law that passed back in 2011.
"Today, it's good to be a Delawarean," George Johnson said. "I had the freedom to marry the man I love. We should allow all family members, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers and our children to marry the person they love."
Blevins said there was no greater reward in running for public office than to help ensure equality for all people.
"The majority of Delawareans support the freedom to marry as do the majority of Americans," she said. "People support this because everyone now knows someone who is gay - a friend, a co-worker, a sibling, or the parents of a child at their kid's school."
Markell said marriage equality was something that many Delawareans and Americans had "searched their heart" about. In the end, he believed most people had recognized it as a fundamental part of "the pursuit of happiness" entitled to all Americans. That was why the U.S. Military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy had been done away with, among other things, he said.
In addition, Markell predicted that the U.S. Supreme Court would strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, drawing applause from the crowd.
Markell said the legislation proposed would be his follow up on the promise he made in his inaugural address to make the Diamond State a welcoming place for all people.
"When it passes the General Assembly I will sign it," he said.
Delaware Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) said he had assigned House Bill 75 to the House Administration Committee and a hearing on it was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 17 at Legislative Hall in Dover.
In 25 years as a Delaware State Police trooper, Schwartzkopf said he saw what people did to each other just because they looked, acted or loved differently.
That is why I fought for equal rights, that is why I fought for civil unions and that is why I am going to fight for marriage equality," he said.
Toward the end of the press conference, President of Equality Delaware Lisa Goodman took the stage and called the sunny yet windy day historic.
Page 2 of 2 - "Feel that wind? Goodman said. "Those are the winds of change. We stand here together so say no loving couple should be denied the freedom to marry whom they love."
Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, Attorney General Beau Biden and Delaware NAACP Director of Religious Affairs/Black Clergy Consortium President Dr. Donald Morton also made some remarks at the press conference.
Among those on stage with the speakers were New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon, State Sen. Karen Peterson (D-Stanton), State Rep. Michael Ramone (R-Middle Run Valley) and State Rep. Debra Heffernan (D-Bellefonte).