Friday, February 18, 2011

Maryland's Marriage Equality Bill Passes Senate Committee, Passage Expected

The difference between my home state of Maryland and my adopted home state of Virginia could not be more clear this week. The two neighbors are separated not just by the Potomac River, but by decades of civil rights progress and social evolution.

Legislation that would make Maryland the fifth state - plus DC - to approve same-sex marriage cleared its first hurdle Thursday by winning approval in a crucial senate committee. The Washington Post reports:
The 7-to-4 vote by the Judicial Proceedings Committee sends the bill the Senate floor, where a lengthy and emotional debate is expected next week on the most high-profile social issue facing lawmakers during their 90-day session.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) predicted Thursday that the bill narrowly would pass in his chamber. The legislation next would move to the House of Delegates, traditionally the more liberal chamber on social policy.

Maryland would join the District and five other states in allowing marriages between same-sex couples.

The vote on the bill is expected to be very close in the Senate. A Post tally published this week showed 24 senators having said they would support the bill -- the bare minimum needed for passage.

The tally includes Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore), who said in an interview last week that she would vote for the bill if she were the deciding vote. Conway has been more equivocal in interviews with other publications, saying she was "still praying" over what to do.

In a brief interview Thursday, Conway told The Post that she was "going to do the right thing" but would not elaborate on what that was.

Two other members who remain undeclared -- Sens. John C. Astle (D-Anne
Arundel) and James C. Rosapepe (D-Prince George's) -- brushed off questions from reporters Thursday.

"You'll see it on the board," Astle said of his vote.

Rosapepe repeated his pledge to announce his intentions by the end of this week.

Miller, who opposes the legislation, predicted that it would pass on a vote of 24 to 23 or 25 to 22.

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