YES & NO IN DOVER
Updated: June 11, 2013
Switching a vote is not the norm in the Delaware General Assembly.
Legislators generally choose a side and stick with it. Consistency is good politics. Flip-flopping is bad politics. Besides, they might even have principles that cause them to vote the way they do.
When a vote does change, it stands out.
For example, there was only a single legislator who voted one way on civil unions in 2011 in the last session and the other way on gay marriage in this session. It was Earl Jaques, a Democratic representative from Glasgow. He voted "yes" on civil unions but "no" on gay marriage, and he had his reason.
"Civil unions is about legal rights and discrimination. Marriage is a social and moral issue. Marriage gave them only the name 'marriage,'" Jaques said.
"My district has 10 churches and one mosque, and that viewpoint came out loud and clear. I voted my district. It was a difficult subject, but it finally came down to I had to support my district."
Now there has been a rare contrasting vote between a bill on gay marriage and another bill on civil rights for transgender Delawareans. It was cast by by Brian Bushweller, a Democratic senator from Dover. He voted for gay marriage but not for transgender rights. Instead, he abstained, or in legislative parlance he went "not voting."
"I've always been wishy-washy," Bushweller quipped.
Then he got serious. He explained he decided to vote for gay marriage only after scores of discussions with his constituents, including religious leaders for and against it, but the transgender rights bill came up for debate too fast for him to do the same.
"Purely personally, I didn't have enough time to talk with my constituents about the issue, so I decided I'm not going to vote 'no,' and I'm not going to vote 'yes,'" Bushweller said.
The legislation on civil rights for transgender Delawareans -- who are the "T" in LGBT for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people -- joins other bills on what is the most liberal agenda in Dover since the 1960s. Here is a summary of some of the legislation and the votes.
Death penalty repeal. (Senate Bill 19): To eliminate the death penalty, except for 17 inmates currently on death row. Sponsored by Karen Peterson, Democratic senator from Stanton. Senate status: Passed 11-10. House status: In committee.
Gay marriage (House Bill 75): To legalize gay marriages and convert civil unions to marriage without requiring clergy to perform them. Sponsored by Melanie George Smith, Democratic representative from Bear. House status: Passed 23-18. Senate status: Passed 12-9. Governor signed May 7.
Transgender rights (Senate Bill 97): To prohibit discrimination against transgender Delawareans and make violence against them a hate crime with increased punishment. Sponsored by Margaret Rose Henry, Democratic senator from Wilmington. Senate status: Passed 11-7 with two not voting and one absent. House status: In committee.
Background checks (House Bill 35): To extend background checks on gun purchases to private sales, with certain exceptions like family members. Sponsored by Valerie Longhurst, House Democratic majority leader from Bear. House status: Passed 24-17. Senate status: Passed 13-8. Governor signed May 8.
Income tax (House Bill 50): To extend a tax enacted to deal with a revenue shortfall during the Great Recession by setting the rate on personal income above $60,000 at 6.6 percent, higher than the pre-recession rate of 5.95 percent but lower than the rate of 6.95 percent set in 2009. Sponsored by Longhurst. House status: Passed 26-15. Senate status: Passed 13-8. Governor signed March 28.
Minimum wage (Senate Bill 6): To raise the minimum wage in steps from $7.25 an hour to $8.25 an hour by 2014 with cost of living adjustments thereafter. Sponsored by Bob Marshall, Democratic senator from Wilmington. Senate status: Passed 12-9. House status: In committee.
SENATE: 13 Democrats, 8 Republicans
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: 27 Democrats, 14 Republicans
Source: Delaware General Assembly