Md. Senate Committee Passes Gay Marriage Bill

A Maryland state Senate committee approved legislation allowing same-sex marriage Thursday afternoon, allowing the bill to move to the full Senate floor for a vote.

The Judicial Proceedings Committee passed the legislation in a 7-4 vote.

Already, gay rights activists are rallying state senators in order to gain the 24 votes needed to pass the same-sex legislation in the Senate and move it to the House of Delegates.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) predicted that the bill will pass, although with a close vote, in the Senate. Miller does not support the bill.

Sens. Miller and C. Anthony Muse, who is also senior pastor of Ark of Safety Christian Church, are part of a bi-partisan coalition of 21 Maryland senators who have pledged to vote against the same-sex bill.

Despite the strong opposition to the bill, a tally of each side reveals that gay marriage proponents may have the votes necessary to pass the legislation.

Eighteen senators sponsored the same-sex marriage bill. Another six senators have publically pledged to vote in favor of it. One of the six is Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore), who announced a change in heart a week ago.

Brochin had originally described same-sex marriage as a "stumbling block." But he said the "appalling" tone of opponents' testimonies given at the Judicial Proceedings Committee changed his mind.

Also part of the six confirmed "yea" votes is Sen. Joan Carter Conway. Conway originally told the press she was "still praying" about it, but later said she would vote yes if it came down to one vote.

Two senators remain undecided.

If all of the bill's sponsors and the six supporters vote in favor of the bill, gay rights proponents will have the minimum 24 votes needed to pass the same-sex marriage legislation in the Senate.

Supporters of the bill believe if it makes it to the House, state delegates will approve the legislation and pass it on to Gov. Martin O'Malley.

O'Malley has pledged to sign the same-sex marriage bill into law. He is also asking state lawmakers to pass a law protecting churches and other places of worship so they may choose to not wed gay couples.

A Senate floor vote is expected to occur next week.

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