Officials with two committees of the Maryland House of Delegates planned for at least eight hours of testimony in Annapolis on Friday by witnesses for and against a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.
In a scheduled joint hearing, the House Judiciary Committee and the Health and Government Operations Committee were also to hear testimony on a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
The hearing was to take place 10 days after nearly 100 witnesses testified on the marriage bill before a hearing of the Maryland Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee. Sources familiar with that committee said it was expected to vote to approve the same-sex marriage bill, known as the Civil Marriage Protection Act, on Thursday, Feb. 9.
“We think it will come up for a vote on that day, but we’re not absolutely certain,” said one knowledgeable source familiar with the committee.
Most political observers believe supporters of the same-sex marriage bill have the votes to pass in committee and in the full Senate. They say the vote in the House was expected to be close and its passage there was uncertain. Observers say the proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage would likely be killed in committee.
Earlier this week, Rev. Al Sharpton, the nationally known civil rights leader from New York, became the latest public figure to record a video expressing support for same-sex marriage in Maryland.
“As a Baptist minister, I don’t have the right to impose my beliefs on anyone else,” Sharpton said in the video, which can be viewed on YouTube. “So if committed gay and lesbian couples want to marry, that’s their business. None of us should stand in their way,” he said.
Among the committee members expected to attend and ask questions at the joint House hearing on Friday were gay Dels. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore) and Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County).
Also expected to participate in the hearing were Judiciary Committee members Sam Arora (D-Montgomery County), Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George’s County) and Jill Carter (D-Baltimore City). All three startled LGBT advocates last year when they announced they were changing their position from supporters to opponents of the marriage bill.
Arora, who shares the same legislative district as Cullison, drew expressions of outrage from some LGBT activists when he announced he would vote against the marriage measure on the House floor. The activists noted that he ran for his seat in the 2010 election on a platform in support of the marriage bill and signed on as one of its co-sponsors.
Arora, who has not responded to requests from the Blade for an interview, has said his newfound opposition to the bill is based on his religious beliefs.