February 17, 2011 at 8:17 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Md. Senate panel approves marriage bill

Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland’s same-sex marriage bill cleared a crucial hurdle today when the Judicial Proceedings Committee of the State Senate voted 7-4 to approve the legislation and send it to the Senate floor for a vote next week.

The committee’s vote to approve the bill came after it defeated, by a vote of 10-1, a proposed amendment calling for dropping bill’s main provision allowing same-sex couples to marry and converting the legislation into a civil unions measure.

Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) introduced the civil unions amendment, saying he was fulfilling an earlier promise to push for civil unions rather than same-sex marriage. But once his amendment lost, Brochin joined six other committee members to vote for the marriage bill.

He said he plans to vote for the marriage measure again when it comes up for a vote on the Senate floor next week.

The committee approved two separate amendments introduced by Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), a co-sponsor of the marriage bill. Raskin said the amendments made technical changes needed to strengthen the legislation.

Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of the statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality Maryland, called the committee’s action “historic,” noting that it marks the first time a same-sex marriage bill has cleared a committee of the Maryland Legislature.

“We know that momentum is swiftly moving for the same rights, responsibilities, and privileges to be extended to gay and lesbian couples through civil marriage,” she said. “Very soon our families will be provided with the same respect and protections as all other families.”

Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), a co-sponsor of the legislation who is gay, said the committee’s action moved LGBT people one step closer to marriage equality.

“No one can argue that the capacity and bond of love is any different between heterosexual couples and same-sex couples,” he said. “It is time that the rights already enjoyed by many who can obtain a marriage license in Maryland are enjoyed by all regardless of gender and sexual orientation.”

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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