Smyk defends stance on same-sex marriage

May 30, 2013

The Cape Gazette recently printed a letter from a Milton man who took issue with my stance on the same-sex marriage bill (House Bill 75) and my responsiveness to his concerns.

I voted “no” on the legislation, which has since been signed into law, allowing same-sex marriages in Delaware beginning July 1.

The residents of the 20th Representative District who contacted me on this issue overwhelming urged me to oppose the legislation. Others wanted me to support the bill. The author of the letter - who noted in his missive that he has been in a long-term, committed same-sex relationship for nearly five decades - was among the most vocal of this latter group. While I fully understand and appreciate his perspective, I believe my obligation is to represent the interests of the majority of my district.

It needs to be noted that Delaware has been on the cutting edge of ensuring that the rights of same-sex couples are protected. At the start of last year, Delaware implemented its civil union law, giving same-sex couples entering into such contracts all the legal benefits afforded to opposite-sex married spouses. The First State was one of only six to enact such a law.

With civil unions in place, House Bill 75 represented a line I was not willing to cross, partially because of the significant potential it holds for unintended consequences. During the House debate on this bill, one nationally-recognized expert testified that Delaware’s redefinition of marriage will create societal repercussions that will be felt for years to come, including possible lawsuits against small businesses and school districts.

In addition to finding fault with my vote on the same-sex marriage bill, the Milton man also faulted me for being unresponsive to the hand-written notes he sent me regarding the legislation. In this instance, he has a point.

It is true that I did not send a prompt reply, as is my usual practice. I had intended to visit him to discuss the issue face-to-face. Given his passion for this bill, it seemed a more effective way of having a productive dialogue then trading letters or emails, especially in light of the considerable amount of communications I was receiving on the measure.

Unfortunately, I was caught off-guard by the high-speed passage of HB 75. Introduced April 11, in less than a month the bill had been approved by two committees, passed by both chambers of the General Assembly and signed into law. While I am just a few months into my first term in office, even seasoned lawmakers told me they were surprised by the rapidity with which such an impactful bill moved through the legislative process. Still, that is no excuse for not carrying out my intended response.

Same-sex marriage is a hot-button issue on which there is no middle ground. Regardless of how I voted, my decision was certain to disappoint some of my constituents. That is the reality of state legislators. The single vote we cast on any controversial bill cannot possibly reflect the views of each of our constituents.

With regard to same-sex marriage, I am confident I did the right thing for my district and remain comfortable with my vote and the stance I took on this issue.

State Rep. Steve Smyk
20th Representative District, R, Lewes-Georgetown

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