A bill to legalize gay marriage in Maryland has been sent back to the committee to be taken up next year.
After being passed through the state Senate and the House's committee, the Maryland bill that would allow lesbians and gays to wed was tabled on Friday.
House supporters did not allow the bill to come to a vote because they allegedly could not rally the 71 votes needed to pass the legislation. The bill has been sent back to the committee where it can be considered again. House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said the bill would not be considered again until next year.
Traditional marriage supporters praised the halted vote as a victory.
"We took a position to support the existing definition as being between one man and woman and that prevailed," said House Minority Leader Anthony O'Donnell (R-Calvert.) "I think it was the appropriate action."
Of the House of Delegates' 141 seats, 98 are held by Democrats. Openly lesbian delegate Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) stated that the Republicans' six-seat grab during the 2010 election hampered the Democrats' efforts.
"If in the general election we had retained all of the Democratic seats I think we would be declaring victory today," McIntosh said tearfully.
However, both Maryland Democrats and Republicans have been torn on this issue.
The gay marriage bill was narrowly passed through the Senate last month by a 25-21 vote. There, a bi-partisan group of 21 Republicans and Democrats stood against the gay marriage bill.
The House of Delegates Judiciary Committee passed the gay marriage bill a week ago by another thin majority, 12-10. The committee approval took longer than expected due to two stalling committee members who walked out of the hearings.
One of the stallers, Del. Tiffany Alton (D-Prince George's County), was a bill co-sponsor who had a change of heart. Alton ultimately voted against the legislation in the committee vote.
Letters from six openly gay delegates pleading for support, which were circulated around the House last weekend, may have signaled that trouble was ahead for the bill's proponents.
The bill was expected to receive final approval this past Tuesday, but was delayed. Despite several personal testimonies – Del. Peter F. Murphy, a divorced father of two, came out during Friday's debate – gay marriage supporters were ultimately unsuccessful.