Senate approves gay marriage; House passage not assured
The Maryland Senate narrowly approved legislation Thursday that would legalize same-sex marriages following a day of emotional and often personal debate laced with references to religion and civil rights.
The 25-to-21 vote sent the bill to the House of Delegates, traditionally the more liberal chamber on social issues, but where supporters acknowledged Thursday that they still were a couple of votes shy of the majority needed for passage.
During Senate debate, supporters called the legislation a matter of fairness, arguing that same-sex couples should be entitled to the hundreds of rights conferred by the state on other married couples.
"It provides full equality under the law for ... couples like Mark and myself," said Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), an openly gay lawmaker, referrring to his partner of more than a decade with whom he has two young children.
Several of his colleagues countered that marriage should be reserved for couples that can procreate and urged the Senate not to broaden its definition.
"The Senate has become the last bastion to protect the sacred institution of traditional marriage," said Sen. Brian W. Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel), who also warned that "young impressionable students" would be taught "the homosexual worldview" if the bill passed.
Maryland would join five other states and the District in allowing same-sex couples to marry. Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has said he will sign the legislation if it reaches his desk.
With attention turning to the House, supporters acknowledged Thursday that same-sex marriage has been a hard sell in that chamber with African American lawmakers from Prince George's, as well as conservative Democratic from Southern Maryland and the Baltimore suburbs.
"We can take nothing for granted in the House," said Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery), an openly gay lawmaker who has been among those counting votes. "We still stand a few votes short of where we need to be to assure victory."
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