Central Delaware
Equality Delaware aims to help in marriage rights debate

DOVER — Dover resident Linda Blowey sat between daughters Virginia and Tori, front and center, at Equality Delaware’s community meeting Sunday evening at Christ Episcopal Church in Dover.

Ms. Blowey and Virginia attended the meeting in support of Tori, a lesbian.

“I love my daughter. She’s the whole package and I take her for what she is,” Ms. Blowey said.

Lisa Goodman, president of Equality Delaware, ran the meeting in a similar vein as town hall forums in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach in January, discussing potential marriage legislation and opportunities for community members to reach out to legislators via letters and phone banks.

During Gov. Jack A. Markell’s first term, the state’s Civil Union and Equality Act of 2011 recognized civil unions between same-sex couples and provided partners the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities afforded to married couples under Delaware law. Lobbying efforts by Equality Delaware played a large part in the bill’s success in the General Assembly.

Ms. Blowey said she is hoping the continued efforts will bring equal marriage rights to the state.

“I honestly think in civil unions, it’s the same as separate but equal,” Tori added. “It’s not exactly the same unless it’s marriage.”

The meeting in Kent County also opened the floor for faith-based communities. While there are established community volunteer opportunities in Rehoboth Beach and Wilmington, Ms. Goodman said the organization will host events such as volunteer phone banks in Dover as well, at Christ Episcopal Church.

Jon J. Rania, lay ministry associate for the church, said Christ Episcopal believes strongly in the Gospel inclusion of Jesus — which extends to marriage equality.

“All are welcome and we when we mean all, we mean all. Not some, not some of some color, or some of some social standpoint or financial background, we mean all,” Mr. Rania said.

The church has performed three blessings of the union for gay couples, he said, and looks forward to more.

One of the couples, Ron Gerber and John Saupp of Milford, participated in the community meeting, even writing letters to local legislators. They’ve been together for 38 years and were married in Cape Cod. When the couple moved to Kent County in 2007, they sought out a way to receive an Episcopal blessing.

“We really wanted our relationship blessed by the church,” Mr. Gerber said.

Despite his church’s acceptance of equal rights for gay couples, Mr. Rania acknowledged difficulties within the faith-based communities in Kent County.

“It’s a mixed bag here in Central Delaware ... some churches have shunned us,” he said. “But we are seeing change.”

Staff writer Jen Rini can be reached at 741-8250 or Folllow DSNJen_Rini on Twitter.