The Maryland House of Delegates passed a gay marriage bill with no votes to spare late Friday afternoon by a vote of 71-67. The measure will now go to the Senate where it is expected to pass and then be signed by the governor.
Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar measure that passed in New Jersey on Thursday just prior to Maryland's vote. It appears there are not enough votes to override the veto.
Maryland's vote was preceded by several days of contentious political battles there and in New Jersey. Gov. Martin O'Malley spent the last two days applying pressure to both Democrat and Republican lawmakers so the 71-vote number could be reached.
His efforts were obviously successful. "Today, the House of Delegates voted for dignity," O'Malley posted on Twitter just after the vote.
However, during the late afternoon, two-hour session was filled with impassioned speeches from both sides.
"For me marriage is one man and one woman," Delegate Justin Ready (R-Carroll) said. "We understand in our society there are other relationships and we want to work with people to protect the rights of people who make other lifestyle choices, but for me, marriage is a man and a woman and I think it needs to remain that way in state law."
Part of the strategy in obtaining the necessary votes was the acceptance of an amendment from Delegate Tiffany Alston, a Democrat from Prince George. The amendment would keep the law from being enacted until any litigation related to a potential voter referendum on the measure is processed.
Once the amendment was passed, a number of Democrats committed to vote for the bill. However, delegates rejected amendments that would have created civil unions and given parents the ability to opt out of education programs that discuss same-sex relationships.
Another amendment was added that changed the effective date from October to January of 2013.
Gay marriage proponents will also be focusing on same-sex marriage initiatives in North Carolina and Minnesota later this year.