New York’s passage of same-sex marriage revives Maryland’s debate

Could New York’s embrace of same-sex marriage prove a boon to the effort in Maryland?

Gay rights advocates certainly hope so. Late Friday night, Equality Maryland, the largest gay-rights lobby in the state, issued a statement as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) prepared to sign his state’s just-passed bill into law.

“Equality Maryland looks toward the future of marriage equality as New York becomes the sixth state, along with the District of Columbia, to recognize gay and lesbian couples as full and equal citizens,” the organization said. “It’s time that Maryland joins the ranks of states who favor marriage equality for all loving and committed gay and lesbian couples.”

The Maryland Senate passed a same-sex marriage bill this year, but the effort unexpectedly stalled in the House of Delegates, traditionally the more liberal chamber on social issues. After an emotional floor debate, the bill was sent back to committee once it became clear supporters remained a couple of votes shy of a majority.

Religious groups, including black churches in Prince George’s County, provided robust opposition.

The outlook in Maryland next year remains highly uncertain. But the New York experience highlights some of the key variables.

In New York, Cuomo made the issue a big priority. In Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) spoke out in favor of the bill but did not publicly champion it. Gay legislators have asked him to consider being the chief sponsor next year, an idea to which O’Malley has not committed.

The New York bill passed with the support of four Republicans in the Senate, which is controlled by the GOP. In Maryland, only one Republican senator voted for the bill and no GOP delegates publicly pledged their support. Same-sex marriage advocates are hoping to win over a few House Republicans next year.

Next year’s effort will also provide an interesting test for House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel). Busch’s own thinking about the bill evolved during this year’s debate, and he has pledged to work with supporters next year to seek passage.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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