February 11, 2011 at 4:40 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Baltimore lawmaker could be deciding vote

A Maryland State senator from Baltimore has said she would cast the deciding vote in favor of a same-sex marriage bill if supporters are just one vote short of passing the measure, according to sources familiar with the legislation.

Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore City) has emerged as the likely deciding vote, even though she has yet to publicly disclose how she would vote on the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, which calls for allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry in Maryland.

“She made a statement earlier saying that she would cast the deciding vote if the votes were there,” Josh Hastings, Conway’s legislative assistant, told the Blade Friday. “But she didn’t think the votes were there. That was like two weeks ago.”

Sources familiar with the legislation say the number of confirmed votes for the bill reached 23 on Thursday, when Sen. Jim Brochin (D-Baltimore County) disclosed he would vote for the measure. Twenty-four votes are needed to pass legislation in Maryland’s 47-member Senate.

Conway shares the same legislative district as lesbian House of Delegates member Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City).

Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), a co-sponsor of the marriage bill, told the Blade Friday that he heard Conway say she would vote for the bill if her vote was needed to secure its passage.

Raskin said the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which held an all-day hearing on the bill on Tuesday, was scheduled to vote on the bill Feb. 17. He said the committee could also vote on amendments to the bill on the same day if committee members decide to introduce one or more amendments.

He said the full Senate was expected to begin debating the bill on Feb. 22, with a vote likely to take place the next day following two full days of debate.

According to Raskin, it has been more difficult for the bill’s supporters to line up the 24 votes needed to pass the bill than it has for obtaining the 29 votes needed to stop an expected filibuster.

“What’s interesting is it’s really been easier for us to get to 29 than to get to 24,” he said. “There are a number of senators who on principle feel that legislation should not be blocked by filibuster. There are also a number of moderate Democrats who, for whatever reason, cannot bring themselves to vote for marriage but are able to tell pro-marriage constituents that they will not stand in the way of a vote.”

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Prince Georges and Calvert Counties) has taken such a position, saying he will vote against the marriage bill while voting for cloture to end a filibuster.

“I think he will bring a number of other senators with him in his wake,” Raskin said.

Political observers in the state capital in Annapolis have said support for the marriage bill is stronger in the House of Delegates, which is expected to pass the bill by a wider margin in March. Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he would sign the measure.

In a related development, the Judicial Proceedings Committee Thursday released a list of witnesses who signed up to testify for or against the marriage bill at a packed public hearing in Annapolis on Tuesday.

The list shows that a total of 124 people signed up to testify on the morning of the Feb. 8 hearing, with 67 indicating they oppose the marriage bill and 57 checking a box saying they support the measure.

A committee aide said the committee did not keep track of the number of people who signed up but did not appear when called to testify during the hearing, which lasted nearly seven hours.

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

  • So it looks like this all depends on the votes in the senate, where they may or may not have the votes to pass same-sex marriage. With such a big Democrat majority in the senate it is frustrating to realize that if this bill fails it will because of Dems who don’t support equality. To my mind, the LGBT community should be fielding candidates against unsupportive Dems during the primaries. As for the GOP, I only know of one supportive Republican senator, the rest of them need to get the boot.

  • Besides Maggie McIntosh, Joan Conway’s District 43 includes another out lesbian, Mary Washington.

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