Delaware became the 11th state to legalize same-sex marriage Tuesday after a divided Senate passed the measure, the Associated Press reported.
The bill was passed 12-9 and almost immediately signed by Democratic Gov. Jack Markell. It takes effect July 1. The State House approved the bill in April.
“I think this is the right thing for Delaware,” the governor said after the vote passed. “It took an incredible team effort.”
Following recent votes in Maryland and Rhode Island, all of the Northeast, with the exception of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, now allows same-sex marriage.
"Today, we wrote a new chapter in our history and proved, once again, justice and equality continue to move forward in Delaware," Markell wrote in a statement after the bill was signed.
The Senate listened to hours of passionate testimony from supporters and opponents, but it was ultimately gay rights activists who prevailed.
The same-sex marriage bill was introduced to Delaware’s Legislature last month, a little more than a year after the state started to recognize civil unions.
The bill states that civil unions will not be performed from July 1 on and civil unions will be turned into marriages within the year, the AP reports. According to the legislation, civil unions from other states will be viewed as marriages in Delaware.
Clerics are not mandated to perform same-sex marriages if it is against their religion, but if establishments refuse to provide services to same-sex marriage couples discrimination claims could ensue.
The son of Vice President Joe Biden, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, was thrilled. CNN quoted him saying, "This is a historic day for Delaware. Because of today's vote, all Delawareans will be equal under the law and free to choose whom to love and whom to spend their lives with."