The Maryland House of Delegates on Wednesday gave positive signals during its second reading of marriage equality legislation, rejecting all Senate amendments, one of which would have put the legislation before voters in a referendum.
From Metro Weekly:
Amendments proposed on the House floor included one by Del. Andrew Serafini (R-Washington County) to change the name of the bill from the Civil Marriage Protection Act to the “Same-Sex Marriage Act.” That was rejected 52-85.
The House spent the majority of the debate on a floor amendment proposed by Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-Prince George’s County) to ensure that the bill is partnered with another bill that would guarantee that the marriage legislation goes to referendum.
Maryland’s House is comprised of 141 delegates, from 47 districts, of which 98 are Democrats and 43 Republicans.
Senate Bill 116 passed the Senate on Feb. 24, with a 25-21 vote. Passage of the bill in the House would send the legislation to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s (D) desk.
Wednesday’s action on the bill was also notable because it prompted one lawmaker, Del. Peter Murphy, to come out in an exclusive interview with Washington Blade:
Del. Peter Murphy (D-Charles County), a divorced father of two who also has two grandchildren, said his colleagues and family have known for years that he is gay.
“I have never denied [being gay],” Murphy said, “I just presumed people knew.”
Murphy’s announcement brings to eight the total number of openly gay and lesbian members of Maryland’s legislature, the most of any state in the country. There is one openly gay state senator — Rich Madaleno — and now seven members of the House of Delegates.
The final vote in the House of Delegates could occur as soon as Friday, March 9. While advocates are cautious, they are also optimistic that the votes will be there when it is time to act on the legislation.
The bill was approved two weeks ago by the Senate and if it remains free of amendments the House will be able to send the legislation directly to Governor O’Malley’s desk. O’Malley has indicated that he will sign the bill into law should it reach his desk.
Opponents are keen to put the legislation to a referendum knowing that, if subjected to a popular vote, marriage equality can still be effectively mobilized against.