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Holdouts cause delay on same-sex marriage bill vote

ANNAPOLIS — Legislation to permit same-sex marriage in Maryland has hit a roadblock in the House Judiciary Committee.

Two key members, though they support the legislation, have refused to cast their votes until the leadership of the House addresses their concerns about potential school-budget cuts in Baltimore and Prince George’s County.

Dels. Jill P. Carter, D-Baltimore City, and Tiffany T. Alston, D-Prince George’s, were absent from a scheduled committee vote this morning on the same-sex marriage bill, which the Senate passed last week. Without their votes, the bill would fail on a 10-10 vote of the 22-member committee.

Shortly after 2:30 p.m., House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, began a closed meeting with Del. Carter to try to address her concerns. There was no word on whether Del. Alston joined the meeting.

Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr., D-Prince George’s, Calvert, the committee’s chairman, has rescheduled a vote on the same-sex marriage bill for this afternoon or evening.

But Carter said she will not vote without assurances from the House leadership that her concern about the Baltimore school budget will be addressed. Alston could not be reached for comment.

“I am for the [same-sex] marriage bill. I just don’t think it’s the only bill on the table,” Carter told reporters, referring to funding legislation for Baltimore’s schools.

“One group’s civil rights are not more important than the civil rights of another,” she added, referring to the rights of gays and lesbians to marry and the right of Baltimore’s school children to a quality education.

A fellow delegate said Alston has privately voiced a similar concern that the same-sex marriage bill is getting more attention than the budget for Prince George’s schools.

If the bill clears committee, House Speaker Michael E. Busch has said floor debate on the measure would begin this week.

If the House approves the Senate-passed measure without amendment, the same-sex marriage bill would go to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has said he would sign it into law. If enacted, it would make Maryland the sixth state, in addition to Washington, D.C., that permits same-sex marriage.

The law would go into effect Oct. 1.

The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 116, would remove Maryland’s statutory limitation on marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Clergy members would remain free not to officiate at same-sex weddings if doing so would violate their religious beliefs.

Religious-affiliated organizations also would be permitted to refuse to provide services and goods, such as catering and their dining halls, for same sex-marriage ceremonies and celebrations.

The bill further exempts religious groups from having to provide educational programs, counseling services, retreats or insurance coverage for same-sex couples.

Same-sex marriages are legally performed in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C.

Currently, Maryland recognizes as valid within the state same-sex marriages lawfully performed in other jurisdictions.

2 comments

  1. You people has to know that this is “WRONG”!!!!!!

  2. While I can see the value in making this particular point, it seems to me it could have been made without giving the taxpayers the finger. Do the jobs you were elected to do lest your constituents choose someone with less flair for drama.