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Delaware House passes same-sex civil unions bill

The Delaware House of Representatives [official website] voted 26-15 on Thursday in favor of a bill [SB 30 text] allowing same-sex civil unions [JURIST news archive] within the state. According to the legislation, individuals entering into a civil union "shall enjoy all the same rights, benefits, protections, and shall be subject to all the same responsibilities, as married persons under Delaware law." The bill also provides that "the rights of parties to a civil union, with respect to a child of whom either party becomes the parent during the term of the civil union, shall be the same as the rights (including presumptions of parentage) of married spouses." The Senate voted 13-6 to pass the bill last week. Delaware Governor Jack Markell [official website] has indicated his support for the bill [NYT report], which will now pass to him for his signature and take effect January 1, 2012. Delaware would become the eighth state to allow civil unions for same-sex couples.

Issues surrounding same-sex civil unions and marriages continue to be debated throughout the US. Earlier this month, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire [official website] signed a bill [JURIST report] recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive] as legal domestic partnerships. House Bill 1649 amends the current law [AP report], which acknowledges out-of-state domestic partnerships and civil unions, but excludes same-sex marriage. The Senate approved the bill by a 28-19 vote after the House of Representatives passed the bill [JURIST report] by a similar margin. The bill will become effective 90 days after the close of the current legislative session. Also this month, the Arkansas Supreme Court [official website] upheld [JURIST report] a lower court decision invalidating a state ban on adoptions by same-sex couples. The court affirmed the decision of the Pulaski County Circuit Court invalidating Act 1 [ACLU backgrounder], a state law which prohibits all unmarried couples from adopting or fostering children in the state. The original suit was filed after the law was criticized for effectively denying all gay couples the right to adopt or foster a child because Arkansas does not recognize gay marriage.

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