- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland cleared a crucial hurdle Tuesday as members of two House committees gave it their approval.
The measure received a favorable report by a joint session of the House Judiciary and the House Health and Government Operations committees. It will now go before the full House of Delegates for a vote.
Del. Curt Anderson (D-Dist. 43) of Baltimore, who voted for the bill, was optimistic about its prospects in the House.
“I don’t think this vote would have been allowed to be held today unless [leadership] felt confident that they had enough votes on the floor,” Anderson said.
Opponents of same-sex marriage have pledged to fight the measure by placing it before voters in a referendum this fall.
A bill submitted by Del. Don Dwyer (R-Dist. 31) of Glen Burnie calls for a constitutional amendment establishing marriage between a man and a woman as the only legally recognized domestic partnership in the state.
“It ain’t over until it’s over, and we haven’t voted on the floor yet,” Dwyer said after the committee vote.
The bill received 25 votes from the two committees, including one from Republican Del. Robert A. Costa (Dist. 33B) of Deale. Eighteen delegates voted against the measure, and Del. Sam Arora (D-Dist. 19) of Silver Spring passed, declining to offer a vote.
Arora could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
A joint House committee hearing on same-sex marriage Friday lasted more than 10 hours, as dozens of supporters and opponents turned out to give testimony.
A Senate version of the bill is still awaiting a vote by the Judicial Proceedings Committee. Similar legislation passed the Senate last year but did not come to a final vote in the House.
In addition to containing additional language exempting religious organizations from having to provide services to same-sex couples, this year’s bill had one major change: It carried Gov. Martin O’Malley’s name.
O’Malley (D) testified before both House and Senate members in support of the measure, and addressed hundreds of cheering same-sex marriage advocates at a rally in Annapolis Monday evening.
"We can and we must find a way to protect religious freedom and individual rights equally in the state of Maryland, and we can do it with this bill," O'Malley said at the rally.
The governor’s wife, Katie, drew fire last month when she referred to some legislators who voted against the measure last year as “cowards.”
Opponents seized on the first lady’s remarks, and many appeared at a rally against the bill Jan. 30 carrying signs with messages such as “I am not a coward,” and “Only cowards endorse the immorality of liberals.”