By Rep. Chris Coons
Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in two potentially landmark cases on marriage equality in the United States -- one that challenges state laws that prohibit full marriage equality and another challenging the federal law that limits rights for married couples based on sexual orientation.
While we wait for these important court decisions, the Delaware General Assembly is moving forward on legislation that will make ours the tenth state (the eleventh, if you include the District of Columbia) to extend marriage equality to all of our citizens.
This is going to be a big year for equality in this country. As a nation, we're poised to make historic progress, and in Delaware, we have the opportunity to make sure that everyone has the same right to marry the person they love.
Equality is the birthright of every American, and it's up to all of us to work to ensure that everyone -- no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity -- can access the equal rights and protections due every American.
Delaware legalized civil unions for same-sex couples in 2011, and I was proud to stand with two close friends at their wedding the same day the law went into effect. They were the first couple in our state to get married under the new law.
It was a beautiful New Year's Day service at Trinity Episcopal Church in Wilmington. The pews were packed with loved ones -- family members, friends, neighbors, and members of the congregation. The couple's kids stood at their sides.
"Just as every marriage performed in this church has been," I said in my sermon, "this union is about two people who proudly and passionately love each other celebrating that love and demonstrating their commitment to one another in front of God, their families, their friends, and our community."
Winning civil unions in Delaware was a critical brick on the path to full equality, but it only got us part of the way. Civil unions still relegate gay and lesbian couples to a second-class status that ought not be acceptable in this country.
We're trying to fix that in Delaware.
We've done a whip count and, frankly, if the Delaware General Assembly's vote on marriage equality were held today, it would be close. Really close. The organization leading the fight here, Equality Delaware, has my full support, but it needs the support of allies around the country, too.
We're trying to make sure that every member of the state House and Senate hears directly from their constituents in support of marriage equality, and Equality Delaware has mobilized an impressive field and voter outreach program to do it. Volunteers are phone-banking and canvassing in key communities. Rallies are being organized on college campuses.