Delaware could be the tenth state in the US to allow same-sex marriage as it became the latest to introduce legislation to legalise equal marriage.

The bill, which is expected to be voted on in the legislature in coming weeks, respects religious freedom, in that no religious organisation would be forced to marry anyone against their beliefs.

Democratic Governor Jack Markell, who announced the legislation, said he was hopeful that it would pass given the Democratic control over both the upper and lower chambers of the legislature, but did go on to say “nothing is sure until it’s done.”

“What we know is same-sex couples want to get married for the same reason that other couples want to get married,” he told Reuters.

Republican state Senator Brian Pettyjohn, opposed to the plans to legalise equal marriage, said that civil unions, introduced in the state in 2011, was enough.

“Civil unions, OK, that’s law. But when you want to redefine marriage, that’s crossing the line,” he said. “There is no further benefit that same-sex marriage would give to couples than what they have with civil unions.”

A poll released in March revealed that at least half of the registered voters in Delaware would support legislation that gives marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Delaware was the eighth state to give same-sex couples the right to civil unions, and Governor Markell signed the legislation into law in 2011.  

A Senate committee in the US state of Nevada yesterday voted in favour of a bill which could, if voters approved, make a constitutional amendment to allow equal marriage.

The US Supreme Court recently heard arguments around Proposition 8, the state of California’s ban on equal marriage. During the hearing, the justices questioned the meaning of marriage, and challenged arguments for the ban. 

One day prior, the Supreme Court Justices indicated a possible interest in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as it heard arguments around the issue.

A decision by the Supreme Court is expected in both cases by the end of June.