February 22, 2012 at 7:07 am EST | by Phil Reese
Maryland Senate poised to vote on marriage bill

The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Faith and Property, a conservative Catholic organization, protests the marriage bill at the Md. Capitol Feb. 17. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Maryland Senate is poised to vote on a bill to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples this week, after a committee approved the bill in a 7-4 vote on Tuesday.

A second reading of the bill was delayed Wednesday by one day at the request of opponents. The delay was anticipated and is allowed by Senate rules to give opponents time to plot their strategy. Debate is expected to take place on Thursday, according to Sen. Roger Manno (D-Mont. Co.).

Last year the Senate passed the marriage bill 25-21 before it was scuttled in the House. Same-sex marriage supporters expect passage again this year. Senate President Mike Miller said on Wednesday that he believes there are sufficient votes for passage.

Kevin Nix, communications director of Marylanders for Marriage Equality — the coalition of LGBT rights groups that led the lobbying effort on the bill — said he expects the Civil Marriage Protection Act to be sent to Gov. Martin O’Malley for his signature by the end of this week.

According to legislative rules, though a House bill being voted on by the House of Delegates is only eligible for amendments on the second reading, if the Senate takes up a House bill, the bill is up for amendments on both the second and third readings, prior to a final vote. This means that opponents of the law have an additional opportunity to attach hostile amendments, though several sources told the Blade they doubt this will occur.

O’Malley has pledged to sign the bill should it pass the Senate as expected.

On Friday, the Civil Marriage Protection Act passed the House of Delegates 72-63, after an emotional day that included the surprise addition of support from Del. Tiffany Alston, who disappointed LGBT supporters with her unexpected rejection of the bill in March 2011. Alston proposed a friendly amendment to the bill that was accepted by the legislature in an overwhelming vote.

Once signed, the law will not go into effect until January of 2013, but first most likely will have to withstand a ballot referendum challenging the law.


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