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House committee passes gay marriage bill

ANNAPOLIS — With the vote of at least one Republican, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland is moving to the House of Delegates.

After lawmakers offered a handful of amendments to modify the legislation, two committees voted 25-18 Tuesday evening to send the bill to the full chamber.

The vote came with the support of Del. Robert A. Costa, R-Anne Arundel, who has been rumored in recent days to support the legislation.

In an unusual move by House Speaker Michael Busch, the bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee and the House Government Operations Committee.

The Judiciary Committee, which barely passed the legislation last year, would not have had had enough votes on its own to shepherd the measure to the floor.

Stating concerns over what a change in marriage law could mean for public schools, lawmakers offered amendments to the legislation that would have allowed parents to opt out of education programs that address same-sex marriage as well as exempt teachers from having to teach about gay marriage.

Others suggest the committee pass a bill to legalize civil unions; a move supporters of gay marriage say creates a state of “separate but equal.”

None of the amendments passed.

“Seven states have already passed same-sex marriage, there hasn’t been any exodus in those states,” said Del. Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., D-Baltimore City. “[Those] states haven’t fallen off into the Atlantic Ocean.”

Del. Michael J. Hough, R-Frederick and Washington, called the bill “radical legislation,” while others argued that it should come before voters in a referendum.

The full House is expected take up the legislation Wednesday.

Del. Kathleen M. Dumais, D-Montgomery, said the bill is moving to the floor with more support than it did last year when several delegates rescinded their support over religious and family values concerns.

She said she expects the bill will face amendments on the floor, which were quickly rejected during the 2011 debate. While it is unlikely supporters will accept any changes, Dumais, vice chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, said there is not as much pressure to maintain the bill’s exact form this year.

“Last year there was a real concern because it came over from the Senate first, so there was sort of instruction from the Senate that we would prefer that we made no amendments so that I didn’t have to go back,” Dumais said. “We are in a different position, at the same time I don’t anticipate amendments being accepted on the floor.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley said Monday that he still needs the votes of “a couple” House delegates and that Republican votes could be critical to passing the bill.

“[Tuesday’s] vote on the Civil Marriage Protection Act is a significant step forward for the passage of this bill in Maryland,” O’Malley said in a statement. “Together, we will continue our work to ensure that our State protects religious freedom and provides equal protection under the law for all Marylanders.”

One comment

  1. If they are going to offer classes on same-sex marriage then why not marriage classes? You can’t promote one and not the other.