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Maryland Senate takes up gay marriage legislation

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Senate is expected to act quickly on a bill that could legalize same-sex marriage.

The chamber’s Judicial Proceedings Committee is scheduled to send the legislation to the full Senate on Tuesday and a final vote on the bill could come by the end of the week, said committee chairman Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery.

Last week the House of Delegates cleared a long-standing hurdle and passed the bill by a slim 72 to 67 margin, earning only one more vote than needed to gain a majority.

The Senate passed a similar measure last year 25 to 21, but opponents are still lobbying senators in hopes of killing the bill.

Following the bill’s passage in the House, leaders from the Maryland Catholic Conference urged senators to reject the measure, suggesting the House passed the bill with a significant amount of “political pressures and legislative maneuvers.” That group was scheduled to host its annual lobby night in Annapolis on Monday.

Carrie Evans, executive director for the gay rights organization Equality Maryland, said her group is confident they still have the support of the 25 senators who voted in favor the issue last year, but with their focus in on House members in recent weeks, advocates have not courted any new supporters.

“Truthfully, we’re just working on preserving the 25 (votes),” Evans said Monday.

Sen. James Brochin, D-Baltimore County, who sat on the fence last year before ultimately deciding to support the gay marriage legislation, said his position has not changed and he thinks Republicans won’t drag out the voting process.

“I think Republicans have just realized that a lot of attitudes have changed over the last four or five years and it’s not as polarizing as it once was,” Brochin said.

Eleven of the 12 Senate Republicans and 10 Democrats voted against same-sex marriage last year. One Republican, Sen. Allan Kittleman, R-Howard, supported the bill and was called upon to encourage House Republicans to support the measure before their vote Friday evening.

Frosh said any amendments to the legislation are unlikely to gain traction.

Opponents have vowed to take the measure to referendum should it pass the Senate and be signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley who threw his name behind the legislation this year.