March 1, 2012 at 6:11 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
O’Malley to sign Md. marriage bill Thursday

Gov. Martin O’Malley will sign the marriage bill in Annapolis, Maryland, today. (Washington Blade photo by Pete Exis)

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is scheduled to sign a bill to legalize same-sex marriage at a ceremony at the State Capitol building in Annapolis Thursday at 5 p.m., highlighting what LGBT activists consider an historic advancement for marriage equality.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who voted against the marriage bill, and House Speaker Michael Busch, who supported it, will join O’Malley at the ceremony.

O’Malley’s signature on the Civil Marriage Protection Act was also considered the kick-off for what political observers predict will be an acrimonious referendum campaign in which opponents will ask Maryland voters to kill the bill before it becomes law.

The state Board of Elections on Wednesday approved the language for the petition; opponents are awaiting written confirmation from the board to begin gathering signatures, according to an AP report. Petition drafts filed by opponents Del. Neil Parrott and the Maryland Marriage Alliance contain typos but are otherwise compliant, according to the AP.

Opponents were expected to gather the required number of petition signatures needed to place the referendum on the ballot for the November election.

The referendum campaign received a boost last Friday, when the Fox TV station in Baltimore, WBFF, posted a prominent link to the website gathering signatures for the referendum on its homepage.

Scott Livingston, news director at WBFF, denied any corporate involvement in promoting the referendum campaign.

“We are not endorsing any element of this debate,” Livingston told the Blade. “We see it as a political process. Our goal is letting viewers understand they have a voice in the debate.” He added that the site has now been “modified.”

The link that previously sent readers directly to the petition site now goes to a new page within the WBFF site that also includes a link to Equality Maryland’s website. The change followed what Livingston characterized as a “handful” of complaints from WBFF viewers.

The governor’s bill signing ceremony was set to take place one week after the Maryland Senate voted 25 to 22 to approve the marriage bill. The vote came after senators supporting the bill defeated six hostile amendments introduced by opponents.

The Blade will have updates on the bill signing later in the day.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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