Posted: May 20, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There was an odd sense that something was missing amid the jubilant ceremony last week at the Queen Theater in Wilmington for the signing of the civil union bill into law.

Not that there could have been a checklist for this bill signing, the likes of which Delaware has never seen before, but still.

Cool location? Check. An adventurous makeover just brought this old faded theater on Market Street back into fashion. If it was a person, it would be Betty White.

Crowd ready to party? Check. The place was humming, 600 people thronging inside. Someone happy shouted the Jewish expression of celebration, "Mozel tov!"

The governor? Check. Remembering to bring a pen? Check. Jack Markell, the first-term Democrat, was called the man of the hour. He even brought along his wife Carla, the first lady. He set off wild cheering as he held up the just-signed law as high as he could.

Champagne toast? Check. Inspirational singing? By the Rainbow Chorale of Delaware, natch. Congratulations? Hmmmm.

It would have been almost unthinkable not to hear from Chris Coons, the new Democratic senator, even though he could not be there. He has already become such a friend to gay rights that he was invited to keynote a gala held in March in Philadelphia by the Human Rights Campaign.

Coons sent a congratulatory video. So did John Carney, the new Democratic congressman. That was it from the congressional delegation. Nothing to screen from Tom Carper, not only the Democratic senior senator but the state's senior officeholder.

For just a moment, the celebration seemed out of kilter. What, no Carper? It led to a little muttering about "conspicuous in his absence." People's expressions here and there conveyed the same.

It was not that Carper was overlooked by Equality Delaware, the organization that was the driving force behind the civil union legislation and hosted the bill signing.

"We were very disappointed that Senator Carper told us he was unable to supply a video," said Lisa Goodman, the Equality Delaware president.

Carper's office chalked it up to a schedule too full to fit in time for videotaping.

Nor was Carper entirely missing in action. He signed on to be a member of Equality Delaware's community advisory council, and Emily Spain, the senator's press secretary, noted he sent Josh Magarik, a staff member, to the bill signing. Magarik went unnoticed, however.

Furthermore, had Carper been the governor, as he was from 1993 to 2001, he said Friday by e-mail he would have signed the bill. He also sent along his belated congratulations:

"I am proud to support Delaware's new civil union bill. I supported the bill as it made its way through the legislative process and served on the advisory board for Equality Delaware, the organization that championed this effort. While I wasn't able to attend the signing ceremony personally, I was certainly there in spirit."

Better late than never, but even if there was no time to send a video, what about a card?