As recently as last month, marriage equality continued to spread globally. Within weeks of each other in April, Uruguay, New Zealand, and France all legalized same sex marriage. This brings the count to 14 countries in the world that allow gays and lesbians to marry. However, marriage equality is steadily moving closer to our region.
Here in the U.S., the number of states allowing same sex marriage is a few short of the global count, but it is growing. One of the most recent states to legalize same sex marriage equality was Rhode Island on May 2. Even more significant for our region, though, was Delaware’s decision to legalize same sex marriage on May 6. The First State, and the first state in the tri-state area to stand up for marriage equality, Delaware’s marriage bill passed the State Senate by a vote of 12 to 9. A hub of business and a popular vacation spot for folks from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Delaware may provide a bigger draw for gay and lesbian couples in the area with this recent development. However, opponents on the national level are not discouraged, with 30 states having adopted constitutional amendments limiting marriage to a man and woman. But as Delaware becomes the 11th state to officially embrace marriage equality, public opinion is shifting with many polls showing majority support for marriage equality, according to the New York Times.
A significant milestone in our immediate area’s journey towards full equality, though, was the bill passed by Philadelphia City Council on April 25. Bill 130224, introduced by Councilmember James F. Kenney, was passed with a 14-3 vote and will in part give a tax credit to companies based in Philadelphia to offer health care benefits to life partners of their employees and their children. Capped at $2 million, the credit is meant to encourage companies to recognize the legitimacy of their gay and lesbian employees’ partners and families.
However, much of the success of these measures will hinge on the Supreme Court’s June decisions on the marriage equality cases presented this past March. Without federal support, these measures may become strictly symbolic.