WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Delaware governor Jack Markell is expected to sign into law a bill that will make the state the eighth to recognize civil unions for same-sex couples, his office said on Friday.
The Delaware House of Representatives passed the previously approved state Senate bill 26-15 on Thursday.
The legislation amends the present code on civil unions to include two individuals of the same sex. It stops short of extending the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions, nor does it require religious institutions to conduct ceremonies for same-sex couples.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, California, Oregon, Washington, Maine, Hawaii, Nevada, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia recognize at least some of the legal rights of domestic partnerships.
A proposal that would have made nearby Maryland the sixth state to fully recognize same-sex marriage was shelved last month after it stalled in the state's House of Delegates, despite a Democratic majority.
Delaware's Democratic majority helped usher the bill's approval.
Once signed, the Delaware law will go into effect January 1, 2012. The governor's office said that the signing would take place at an event sometime next month.
"When it came to this legislation, it was clear that it was about rights, it was about opportunity and it was about time," Markell said in a statement.
"It makes clear that if you've committed yourself to someone, and you've made that pledge to spend your life together in partnership, when life or death decisions come, we will respect your right to make those decisions together."
Civil unions allow same sex partners to legally receive benefits such as health insurance coverage.
(Reporting by Wendell Marsh; Editing by Greg McCune)