ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland House of Delegates will wait at least until Thursday to begin debate on a bill to legalize gay marriage, members said.
Supporters of the measure agreed Wednesday to layover the bill, potentially bringing it up for debate in the morning. A panel of 45 lawmakers, including Republican Del. Robert Costa, voted to move the bill to the full chamber this week.
Gov. Martin O’Malley said Monday that he was still looking for “a couple” of votes in the House and that Republican support could be critical to passing the measure.
Several committee Democrats opposed the bill, while Delegate Sam Arora, D-Montgomery, abstained from casting any vote. Arora said he supports civil unions for gay couples, which marriage advocates say creates a state of “separate but equal.”
“I really hope that we can get to a place that we can pass a bill that’s going to provide equality this year and I think the best way to do that is a civil unions bill,” he said.
Arora would not speculate whether he would vote for gay marriage if an attempt to amend the bill to offer civil unions fails on the floor.
“I don’t get into hypotheticals on this,” he said. “I’m hoping that we do see a civil unions bill.”
Last year Arora, a freshman delegate, waffled on support of gay marriage, ultimately voting for the bill in committee in order to move it to the floor. That bill later died when House leaders realized they did not have enough votes to pass the measure.
Other opponents say they worry the bill will force educators to teach about gay marriage in public schools and threaten religious freedoms for people who provide services for weddings.
If the House and state Senate sign off on the bill, Maryland could become the eighth state to legalize gay marriage.