Legal marriage for same-sex couples became law on May 7, 2013.
The state of Delaware same-sex marriage law went into effect on July 1, 2013.
Allowing committed same-sex couples to get married does not change the meaning of marriage. It changes who has access.
Civil marriage for same-sex couples does not affect religious marriages, religious institutions or clergy in any way. No legal marriage law has ever required any religion to be forced to marry same-sex couples, or recognize same-sex marriages within the context of their religious beliefs.
What defines a marriage is love and commitment, and the ability to protect your family. Marriage strengthens all families. It gives couples the tools and the security to build a life together and to protect their family.
Couples marry because they want to be together through sickness and health, when times are good and when things get tough. State and federal marriage laws provide a safety net of legal and economic protections for married couples and their children – including the ability to visit a spouse in the hospital, and to transfer property, which can mean being able to remain in the family home when a spouse has passed away.
While there have been attempts to create marriage-like relationship systems — Domestic Partnership registrations and Civil Unions — they don’t provide the same security and protections on a national level.
Same-sex sexual activity was made legal in Delaware on January 1, 1973.
The University of Delaware’s policy on both discrimination and harassment has included sexual orientation since 1990.
Since 2009, Delaware law has prohibited discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other areas.
Since 2013, Delaware law has prohibited discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other areas.
Gov. Jack Markell issued an executive order on August 11, 2009, which protects employees of state’s executive branch departments and agencies from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
In March 2011, state senators David P. Sokola and Melanie George introduced a bill to create civil unions in Delaware. Governor Jack Markell signed the legislation on May 11, 2011, and it took effect on January 1, 2012. Civil unions grant the “rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities"” of married persons.
In 2012, Delaware issued at least 565 civil union licenses.
In March 2012, Governor Markell said he thought that the legalization of same-sex marriage in Delaware was “inevitable” and would be passed “probably within the next few years.”
On June 6, 2013, bill SB 97 passed the Senate by 11-7. The bill prohibits discrimination on the basis of actual, or perceived, gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other areas. The House committee passed the legislation 4-1 and on June 18, the House floor passed SB 97 by 24-17 with amendments. SB 97 went back to the Senate for final approval. The Senate-approved the amendments by 11-9. One day later, SB 97 was signed into law by the Governor, and went into effect immediately.
A bill to allow same-sex marriage, and also facilitates converting civil unions into marriages, passed the Delaware House by a vote of 23-18, on April 23. The Senate approved it 12-9, on May 7, and that same day the Governor signed the legislation, which went effect July 1, 2013.
Governor Jack Markell:
“Today, we wrote a new chapter in our history and proved, once again, justice and equality continue to move forward in Delaware. In my ‘State of the State’ earlier this year, I spoke about a Delaware that protects the rights of all of its citizens, no matter whom they love. By signing House Bill 75 into law, we are another step closer towards achieving that goal.”
Lt. Governor Matt Denn:
“Today the state Senate did the right thing. Twenty years from now, our kids will wonder why it was ever an issue.”
Senator David P. Sokola:
“This is about the full respect and dignity that comes with marriage. I’m pleased we have passed legislation granting equal justice under the law to loving couples in same-sex relationships.”
Representative Melanie George Smith:
“In Delaware, we do what is right for our citizens. We don’t wait for other states. We don’t wait for the federal government. As legislators, we act right here in Delaware for our citizens. This bill is about equality and treating all couples in a loving, committed relationship with equal respect and dignity. It protects religious freedom by giving churches the freedom to choose whether to marry a same-sex couple or not.”
Senator Patricia M. Blevins:
“This is an important day for Delawareans and ensuring equality for all of our citizens. Granting couples – regardless of their sexual orientation – the right to marry the person they love is another important step toward ushering in the equal treatment all Americans should enjoy.”
Speaker of the House, Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth):
“It has been a long road. I have been working on this for ten years, and many more have been working on equality for all Delawareans for a lot longer. It’s a great day to be in Delaware.”
Polling indicated 54 percent of state residents back marriage equality. Equality Delaware, a statewide organization working to ensure and promote dignity, safety, and equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Delawareans, built a broad-based coalition to advocate for the bill. The organization earned support from faith leaders such as Episcopal Bishop Wayne Wright and Dr. Donald Morton, organizations like the Delaware NAACP and the state’s four leading labor unions, and businesses like DuPont.
Lisa Goodman, president, Equality Delaware, Inc.:
“This is an historic day in Delaware. Delawareans of all backgrounds recognize that treating everyone fairly under the law is the right thing to do. Today our State Senate has joined our House of Representatives in voting to pass marriage equality. This law strengthens our families, strengthens our communities and makes Delaware an even better place to live and work. I couldn’t be prouder to be a Delawarean than I am right now.”
Other groups supporting megal marriage included the ACLU Delaware LGBT Rights Project, Freedom to Marry, and Human Rights Campaign.
The first couple to marry in the state was Karen Petersen, a Delaware State Senator, who co-sponsored the bill establishing the freedom to marry earlier in 2013, and her partner of 24 years, Victoria Bandy. Says Sen. Peterson:
“It’s a real thrill, it’s a thrill for both of us. It’s not something that we ever expected in our lifetimes, but it means a lot personally and financially.”
Article from a Political Leader
I know many of you here today, and many up and down our state, have waited years and decades for this day to come. I know many of you know others who had hoped for years and decades to see this day come, but who passed before their right to marry the one they loved was recognized by the state they called home. I do not intend to make you wait a day longer.
It is in moments like this that it is truly humbling to hold this office. I spoke in my Inaugural Address in January about great Delawareans who have changed history and made our state better for generations to come. Those of you who have worked tirelessly for years to make today possible, who started working to make this day possible before today was even imaginable, have joined the ranks of those great Delawareans. You have advanced the cause of liberty, equality, and dignity in our time.
It has taken us time to know and recognize what the children of gay and lesbian parents in committed relationships have long known – that the people they love and look up to, who have dedicated their love and lives to raising them, are their parents, are there family. By extending the dignity of marriage to their parents’ relationships, we recognize what they know – that they and their parents are family – in terms that are unmistakable and undeniable.
Marriage equality would not have become a reality here in Delaware were it not for the extraordinary efforts of Equality Delaware, under the amazing leadership of Lisa Goodman and Mark Purpura. They are passionate advocates, consummate professionals and, most important of all, kind and decent people. They exemplify the virtues of active citizenship in a state of neighbors.
Marriage equality also would not have become a reality in Delaware without the courageous and principled leadership of Representative Melanie George Smith, Senator David Sokola, the Pro Tem, and the Speaker.
It is my distinct honor today to sign this legislation into law – to make marriage equality the law of Delaware. Delaware should be, is and will be, a welcoming place to live, love, and raise a family for all who call our great state home.
Regulations & Links to Official State Instructions
Delaware Marriage License Regulations
Links to Official State Marriage License Instructions
- Marriage license fee is $50 if either applicant is a Delaware resident; $100 if neither applicant is a Delaware resident.
- There is a $10 recording fee for all licenses issued, due at the time of application.
- The couple must apply together in person.
- You must be at least 18 years of age to marry. Minors must petition Family Court for authorization to marry; 302-255-0300.
- You can not be related to each other.
- Required: A valid state I.D. or state or Federal Drivers License, or a Passport, or I.D. Card from a U.S. Visa, Military, or Government Consulate.
- To verify the authenticity of an applicant’s identification, the office of the Clerk of the Peace may also require additional documentation such as a birth certificate or social security card.
- You can not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Marriage licenses are valid for 30 days, and the ceremony must take place in Delaware.
- Both residents and non-residents intending to be married within Deleware shall obtain a marriage license at least 24 hours prior to the time of the ceremony.
- The Delaware Marriage License has a 1 day in-state, or 4 day out-of-state, waiting period before it can be completed and is valid for 30 days.
- Marriage licenses can be purchased as a gift certificate.
- If individuals have previously been married, an original or certified copy of the Divorce Decree, Annulment, Dissolution, or Death Certificate is required.
- Special authorization is required if either party is on probation or parole.
- If you are in a current same-sex legal union, the conversion fee is $50.
Governments that offer Full Legal Marriage
South Africa (2005)
New Zealand (2013)
New Zealand (2013)
(England, Wales, Scotland) (2013)
United States (2015)
US States & Territories
New Hampshire (2009)
District of Columbia (2009)
New York (2011)
Rhode Island (2013)
New Jersey (2013)
New Mexico (2013)
Michigan (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
Arkansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
West Virginia (2014)
Kansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
North Carolina (2014)
South Carolina (2014)
U.S. Supreme Court (June 26, 2015):
Ruling: All U.S. States must now
allow same-sex couples the
freedom of legal marriage.
Native American Tribes|
Coquille Tribe, Oregon (2009)
Mashantucket Pequot, Connecticut (2011)
Suquamish Tribe, Washington (2011)
Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Washington (2013)
Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota (2013)
Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Michigan (2013)
Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Michigan (2013)
Santa Ysabel Tribe, California (2013)
Confederated Tribes of the Colville Nation, Washington (2013)
Cheyenne, Oklahoma (2013)
Arapaho, Oklahoma (2013)
Leech Lake Tribal Court, Minnesota (2013)
Puyallup Tribe, Washington (2914)
Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming (2014)
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Michigan, (2014)
Colville Confederated Tribes, Washington (2014)
Central Council of Tlingit, Alaska (2015)
Haida Indian Tribes, Alaska (2015)