1st Civil Unions Take Place In Delaware

By Salon Staff

Published January 2, 2012 12:00AM (EST)

More than 400 people, including a U.S. senator, witnessed the first same-sex civil union in Delaware on New Year's Day.

Lawyers Lisa Goodman and Drewry Fennell were joined in the union by the Rev. Patricia Downing, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Wilmington, where the Sunday afternoon ceremony took place.

Goodman and Fennell have been partners for 14 years. Goodman is a lawyer who led the advocacy group Equality Delaware's fight for the civil union law. Fennell heads the state Criminal Justice Council and formerly led the ACLU's Delaware chapter.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., delivered the sermon and Lt. Gov. Matt Denns read scripture.

"We felt so lifted up by everyone who was there," Goodman said by phone as she and Fennell were riding to their home after the ceremony and reception.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed the law authorizing civil unions in May. Delaware is one of about a dozen states that allow either civil unions or marriages for same-sex couples.

Neighboring Maryland is preparing for a renewed fight over a same-sex marriage proposal, with Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley promising his full support for the measure in the coming legislative session.

In Delaware, observers of the Sunday ceremony said it went off without a hitch.

"Everything went perfect, I couldn't be happier, everything was flawless," said Ken Boulden Jr., the New Castle County Clerk of the Peace. Boulden opened his office on Sunday so that Goodman and Fennell and seven other couples could get their licenses on the first day they were available. Boulden was a guest at the Goodman-Fennell ceremony.

Calling the event a "lovefest," Boulden said the good weather meant even heaven was smiling down upon the couple.

"It was a great way to begin the new year," he said.

Downing said she has known Goodman and Fennell for about four years and that the couple crafted a service to reflect their relationship. "I'm full of pride and joy and extremely happy and excited that this could happen in Delaware," Downing said.

The couple had a choir that performed hymns and Christmas carols, one in Spanish, because the church has a Spanish-speaking congregation.

Goodman said that when the congregation gave the couple a standing ovation after the union was pronounced, "I was afraid to turn around because I was afraid I might cry."

Salon Staff

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