In Delaware, Civil Unions Strife Heating Up
GLBT equality advocates in Delaware have announced that they are aiming to see a bill brought to state lawmakers that would extend civil unions to gay and lesbian families. It is thought that a bill for civil unions will come before state lawmakers this month.
But no sooner was the announcement made than an anti-gay group began dredging up a familiar litany of threats, reported On Top Magazine on March 13.
Recently formed GLBT equality group Equality Delaware had made its announcement in February. Currently, four states offer civil unions, and five states offer gay and lesbian families marriage rights.
Anti-gay group the Delaware Family Policy Council has launched an effort to prevent same-sex couples from obtaining legal recognition. The group’s website makes assorted claims about civil unions, including the assertion that, "A vote for civil unions IS a vote for same sex ’Marriage.’ "
The Delaware Family Policy Council describes its mission as "To strengthen, nurture, and shield our Delaware Families by developing faith based alliances with churches, pro-family organizations, community and civic leaders, and religious organizations."
"Understand that if this bill passes, there is no going back," text at the group’s site declares. "Civil unions threaten to redefine marriage and parenting."
Adds the text, "Every time civil unions have been imposed on a state, demands for same-sex ’marriage’ have followed. The activists lobbying for civil unions really want same-sex ’marriage.’ "
The text goes on to assert, "The bottom line is that you can’t really talk about civil unions without talking about same-sex ’marriage’ because there really isn’t any difference. The goal is the same."
The site encouraged foes of family parity to contact state legislators. "We need to flood these legislators with many calls so our message is not ignored," the text read, going on to list the phone numbers of six state lawmakers:
"Rep. Joseph Miro (North Newark) 302-454-1840
Rep. Nick Manolakos (Hockessin) 302-239-3943
Rep. Michael Ramone (Pike Creek) 302-737-3412
Rep. Quinton Johnson (Middletown) 302-378-2681
Rep. Earl Jaques (Glasgow) 302-834-9231
Rep. Rebecca Walker (Townsend) 302-293-2356"
On Top Magazine reported that the organization went further, making claims that children would be taught about homosexuality in school. Calling civil unions "a desperate and dishonest attempt to force same-sex ’marriage’ on Delaware," the group claimed in an "Urgent Call to Action" that, "If government changes the definition of marriage, which civil unions will do, it will have to enforce the belief that same sex ’marriage’ is the equivalent of man/woman marriage. This belief will be taught in the classroom."
Such claims were pivotal in the passage of Proposition 8 in California in 2008. Anti-gay proponents of the ballot measure advertised the message that unless marriage rights were stripped from same-sex couples, young children would be taught about gay and lesbian families and same-sex relationships in the classroom. One television commercial depicted a young girl seemingly "choosing" to become a lesbian after reading a book at school in which a prince marries another man rather than a princess.
The state’s education officials decried the claim as false, but voters believed the claim. Yanking marriage rights from same-sex families did little to ease the fears of anti-gay parents, however; a year after the passage of Proposition 8, anti-gay activists in the state were still targeting school curricula, claiming that anti-bullying videos promoted homosexuality to children.
Equality Delaware’s website notes that GLBT family parity advocates in the state have worked for two decades to gain a modicum of protection for gays and their families. Some progress in the areas of hate crimes laws, hospital visitation, and anti-discrimination laws has resulted.
"As we all know, there is still much work to be done," the text adds. "Equality Delaware’s mission is to ensure and promote dignity, safety, and equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Delawareans.
"Our first initiative is to advocate for the passage of a civil union bill in Delaware," the text continues. "To that end, we have drafted a civil union bill, and have obtained sponsors for it in both houses of the Delaware General Assembly. We are very excited about the bill’s prospects, and have begun an outreach campaign to our community and the general public."
The text is signed by the group’s president, Lisa Goodman.
In 2009, Delaware lawmakers mulled a state law that would have only legally recognized relationships between heterosexual couples. The bill was described as a "Delaware version of DOMA," the 1996 federal law that denies recognition to same-sex families, even if they are married in one of the five states where marriage is allowed for same-sex families.
The bill stated, "A marriage between a man and a woman is the only legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state."
But critics pointed out that the law’s wording indicated that no union other than a heterosexual marriage would be given recognition, meaning that the law’s passage would block future attempts to gain domestic partnerships or civil unions.