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Bid in Md. House to Save Gay Marriage Ban Fails

Even before the delegates took the floor yesterday, Republican leaders were resigned to the likelihood that their battle against same-sex marriage had run its course.

"We don't have the votes to do anything," House Minority Whip Anthony J. O'Donnell (Calvert) lamented. "They change the rules every day to suit their needs."

Although Democrats said the debate enabled advocates on both sides to voice their views, the speaker took pains to limit the floor discussion to whether the procedure should be used to resuscitate the measure.

Democrats said the critical issue was whether delegates championing emotion-laced social issues would be allowed to bypass a committee vote and force their issues to the floor. If that happened, said Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George's), the floor could be overrun with debates over gun control, abortion, the death penalty and other issues that arouse members' partisan passions.

"Some 2,000 bills could be the subject of debate on this floor," Vallario said. The only way to control the flow of legislation, he said, is to empower the six House committees to study the issues closely and determine which issues warrant a full vote in the chamber.

Republicans said process had become more important to House leaders than an issue of great public interest.

"The institution of marriage, I would say, trumps the rules of the House of Delegates," said Del. Christopher B. Shank (R-Washington).

"What's more important," agreed Del. Herbert H. McMillan (R-Anne Arundel), "the institution of marriage or the committee system?"

Barve said resolution of the debate boiled down to the most basic democratic principle: Majority rules.

"Now everyone knows where we stand," Barve said. "The Republicans can complain about the outcome, but the bottom line is, it takes a majority of votes to get something passed here, and they did not have the votes."


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