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Maryland gay marriage supporters launch coalition

ANNAPOLIS — Gay marriage supporters in Maryland rekindled debate over legalizing same-sex marriage in the state on Tuesday by announcing a new coalition to push for legislation next year.

The announcement prompted opponents to say they’ll be back in Annapolis to maintain the state’s current marriage laws while Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration expressed support for getting a same-sex marriage bill through next year.

Marylanders for Marriage Equality held a news conference in Baltimore to announce plans for a sustained effort to rally support. The group includes Progressive Maryland, a liberal lobbying group, and Equality Maryland, the state’s largest gay civil rights group. It also includes labor organizations and the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group, as well as the groups Catholics for Equality, the Maryland Black Family Alliance and Pride in Faith.

“We’re proud to be working with such a broad and diverse coalition of groups to secure marriage equality in Maryland,” said Lisa Polyak, chair of Equality Maryland.

The coalition was announced just weeks after same-sex marriage was approved in New York. Supporters are hoping the change there will galvanize support for a bill that passed Maryland’s state Senate, but stalled in the House of Delegates.

Opponents in Maryland were quick to respond. They underscored that Maryland differs from New York, because the state has a mechanism for voters to petition legislation to the ballot — a petition process currently being used by opponents of separate legislation would allow in-state tuition for illegal immigrants under certain circumstances. Opponents of same-sex marriage vowed to keep working against changes to the state’s marriage laws.

“The successful coalition that upheld the time-honored definition of marriage in Maryland remains intact and will continue to be involved in upholding marriage in our state,” said Kathy Dempsey, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Catholic Conference.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for O’Malley said the governor is hoping to announce a decision soon on how he plans to address the issue in the next regular 90-day session in January.

“We are supportive of this new, aggressive effort announced today, and the governor is working with a broad coalition of groups — reaching out to them — and we are discussing the next steps to take to ensure passage next session,” Raquel Guillory said.

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