After hours of testimony on Friday, the Maryland House of Delegates returned what has been a hotly contested marriage equality bill to judiciary committee, likely ending hopes of marriage equality in the state for another year.
From The Advocate:
In another surprising twist in the long and winding path of the Maryland marriage equality bill, the house of delegates voted shortly after 2 p.m. to recommit the bill to committee, effectively ending debate for the foreseeable future and ensuring there would be no vote on the bill as had been anticipated Friday.
Maryland house of delegates chairman Del. Joseph Vallario proposed the motion to recommit after almost three hours of impassioned debate. Advocates, though clearly stunned, struck an upbeat tone in their reaction to the move, which buys the measure time. As late as Friday, despite a last-minute push by Gov. Martin O’Malley and Democratic house leadership, the measure remained one to two votes short of the 71 required for passage.
Had the vote occurred in the house, it was expected to be close, with supporters of the bill still short of the 71 votes needed to pass the measure as of Thursday evening.
The Civil Marriage Protection Act passed the senate by a vote of 25 to 21 last month but has encountered a bumpier ride in the house, traditionally thought to be the more liberal of the two chambers. Obstacles included Democratic cosponsors in the house judiciary committee who abruptly opposed the bill before the panel advanced it last week by a 12 to 10 vote.
As taken up by the House of Delegates, SB. 116 carried a number of amendments, one of which required the bill be renamed the “Same-Sex Marriage Act” and another that would have almost certainly seen the legislation put before voters in a referendum.
However, those amendments were stripped from the bill during the legislation’s second hearing on Wednesday. Democratic Governor O’Malley had said he would sign the bill if it reached his desk.
House Speaker Michael Bush on Wednesday warned that any amendments could kill the bill. This did not stop Democratic Rep. John A. Olszewski Jr. offering an amendment which, he said, would further protect religious groups.
The amendment was designed to broaden the bill’s religious protections by replacing a narrow list of religious exemptions by utilizing an open-ended clause that simply said that the bill would protect institutions from “the promotion of marriage in violation of the entity’s religious beliefs.”
This and another amendment designed to grant civil unions instead of marriages were both rejected.
EQUALITY MARYLAND VOWS TO KEEP UP FIGHT FOR MARRIAGE
March 11, 2011 — After lengthy debate and support from thousands of Marylanders from all over the state, today the House of Delegates recommitted the Civil Marriage Protection Act to committee.
Statement by the Staff and Board of Equality Maryland; Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Executive Director and Charles Butler, Board President
“While we are disappointed the House did not vote to pass marriage equality today, we are confident we will win in the future. With so much at stake today for thousands of Maryland families, we are thankful that our legislative allies have taken such care with this vote. It is best to delay this historic vote until we are absolutely sure we have the votes to win. We look forward to working strategically with our amazing allies in the legislature, and our supporters across the state, to continue to build support for, and win, marriage equality in the Free State.
We are extraordinarily grateful to the many leaders who have stood by us throughout this journey. We wouldn’t have made it this far without their tireless dedication. We especially would like to thank our lead sponsors – Senators Rob Garagiola (D-15), Jamie Raskin (D-20) and Rich Madaleno (D-18) and Delegates Kumar Barve (D-17), Ben Barnes (D-21) and Keiffer Mitchell. We are also extremely fortunate to have such dedicated leaders in the members of Maryland’s LGBT Caucus and proud to call them not just our partners but our friends. Special thanks to Delegates Maggie McIntosh (D-43), Heather Mizeur (D-20), Anne Kaiser (D-14), Luke Clippinger (D-46), Bonnie Cullison (D-19), Mary Washington (D-43) and Peter Murphy (D-28). No one could have done more to push for the passage of this legislation.
We commend the thousands of supporters across the state who made calls, sent emails, and met with their legislators to tell them why all Maryland couples should be treated fairly. Folks from all over Maryland stood up and told their stories, got involved and built grassroots support to extend to the freedom to marry to all loving and committed couples.
As a result of the tireless efforts, strong hearts, and the determination of gay and lesbian couples and our many allies it is only a matter of time before Marylanders achieve marriage equality.
Equality Maryland is more committed than ever to this fight. We’re committed to working with our allies in the legislature to redouble our efforts to ensure that our voices are heard and our rights are protected. We know our cause is just. We know that a growing majority of Marylanders believe in the same values of fairness and equality.
We must commit to this fight for the long haul, and together we will triumph!”
While indeed it is still possible that the judiciary committee could move the bill, this seems doubtful given that the legislation only scraped out of committee the first time around. Also of note is the fact that, by recommitting the bill to judiciary committee, House lawmakers did not have to officially record their stance on marriage equality. For those lawmakers who have flip-flopped on the issue this would seem a favorable solution.
Even if the bill were to pass this time around, anti-gay groups like the National Organization for Marriage have pledged to push for a referendum, knowing that marriage equality has consistently been blocked by popular vote.
Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Jeff Belmonte.