A Maryland House committee passed the Senate-approved gay marriage bill Friday, moving the state just steps away from becoming the sixth state that recognizes same-sex marriage.
The House of Delegates Judiciary committee passed the gay marriage bill by a 12-10 vote, three days after the committee was expected to do so. Dels. Tiffany Alton (D-Prince George's County) and Jill Carter (D-Baltimore City) walked out of the committee meeting on Tuesday.
Alton, a co-sponsor of the House gay marriage bill, expressed doubt about voting for the bill. Ultimately, Alton voted against the legislation. Carter walked out in the hopes of drawing attention to other legislations, such as a child custody bill and approving education funding. She voted for the legislation today.
Now that the legislation is headed to the House floor, state House Majority Leader Kumar Barve (D- Montgomery County) is optimistic that Maryland will become the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage.
"It's going to be close, but I think that a majority of the House feels that this is a civil rights issue, and it's a matter of giving the same rights and privileges and responsibility to loving, same sex couples that married people like me have," he told Reuters.
Del. Emmett Burns, Jr. (D-Baltimore County) disagrees with Barve.
"I will argue for the position that civil rights were not the same, our civil rights, the movement was not the same," he told Reuters. "Those who juxtapose the two are gravely mistaken."
Burns has co-sponsored legislation for a referendum to approve a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Members of the Family Research Council have also begun collecting signatures for a referendum petition after the Senate approved the gay marriage legislation 25 to 21 last week.
The Maryland Senate narrowly passed the measure. There was a strong opposition in the beginning. However, that opposition weakened after Democratic state Sen. James Brochin switch sides to support the same-sex marriage bill. Also, a number of undecided Senators chose to vote for gay marriage as well.
Now gay marriage opponents are petitioning for a referendum.
"There are [Maryland] churches in our coalition that have 20,000 people in their church, so it's a question of just circulating [a petition] among a few churches," FRC Chaplain Rev. Pierre Bynum stated.
The current states that legally recognize same-sex marriages are: Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire. The nation's capital of Washington, D.C., also recognizes gay marriages.