Wearing stickers that read “Don't Mess with Marriage,” about 350 protesters showed up at Legislative Hall in Dover Wednesday to argue against a bill that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.

Senate Bill 30, which is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Thursday, would make Delaware the seventh state to allow civil unions and the 15th state to fully recognize same-sex relationships.

The group wanted to make sure lawmakers had all the information they needed before voting.

“This was a day where we invited our membership to meet their legislators to talk about SB 30,” said Jordan Warfel, Policy Analyst for Delaware Family Policy Council.

The non-profit organization partners with families, parents and churches to help bring a voice to the legislature about a wide variety of issues. The organization opposes same-sex marriage and believes it is the inevitable next step after civil unions. 

“Everywhere this bill has been pushed in every other state it has always been used as a platform to get same-sex marriage,” Warfel said. “We believe in marriage between a man and a woman. We believe that is the proper environment for raising children. Children always do best when there's a mom and a dad in the home. Statistics show that conclusively.”

Under the measure, civil unions would be available only to same-sex couples, while marriage would remain limited by Delaware law only to opposite-sex couples. Couples who enter into a civil union would enjoy the same rights, protections and obligations that exist for married spouses. 

“Our position is it's dishonest for the other side to talk about this issue without talking about marriage, because that's really the goal of what they're trying to do here,” Warfel said.

State Rep. John Kowalko (D-Newark) met with five of the protesters, and told them he supports the measure. 

“I think that this is a basic rights bill, I think it's a civil rights bill, and I think it's a human rights bill that we allow people that have that commitment to each other to enjoy the relationship in a formal way with all the benefits and/or burdens.”

Kowalko said he was discouraged that he heard reports from colleagues in Legislative Hall that some of the visitors had resorted to “name calling and meanness” to make their arguments. He also said one of the protesters threatened to organize against his re-election if he didn't vote against the bill.

“That's disappointing,” Kowalko said. “But I will not deny them that right to have that conversation with me and that attempt to influence me.”

Under the law, couples in a civil union would have the same protections, rights and obligations as a married couple, such as hospital visitation rights, property and last will and testament transfers, the ability to live together in nursing homes, joint adoption, and other legal issues.