Md. Senate - largest remaining hurdle to same-sex marriage - likely to approve bill

Hundreds of supporters of gay rights gathered in Annapolis Monday night to push for passage of the same-sex marriage bill in Maryland. The Washington Post's count indicates the bill has enough votes to pass in the Senate, and it is thought to have even stronger support in the House.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 14, 2011; 10:14 PM

A majority of Maryland's state senators have said publicly that they will vote to legalize same-sex marriages, greatly increasing the odds that the highest-profile social legislation being considered by the General Assembly will pass in coming weeks.

In interviews Monday, two more senators said they intended to vote for the bill, increasing the number who have made such commitments to 24 - the bare majority needed for passage in the 47-member Senate - according to an ongoing Washington Post tally.

"I think it's the fair thing to do," said Sen. Katherine A. Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County), who said she had gone back and forth on the bill a few times. "I just weighed all the options. I think it's fairness."

Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer (D-Baltimore County) also voiced support for the bill in an interview Monday, saying, "I don't see how you can deny the right" to gay couples to marry.

If the bill clears the Senate, it would move to the House - traditionally the more liberal of the two chambers on social policy. Sponsors say they are confident they can secure a majority there.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has said he would sign the bill. Maryland would join five other states and the District in allowing same-sex marriages.

The Post's tally is not a guarantee of the bill's passage when it reaches the Senate floor, probably next week. Several senators, including Klausmeier, have publicly agonized over their positions in recent days. Opponents also have threatened a filibuster in an attempt to kill the legislation.

The Post's count of 24 senators includes one - Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore) - who has said she will not vote for the bill if she believes it will fail. Conway told The Post last week that she "would pray real hard" and vote for the bill if hers was the deciding vote.

Still, it is clear that the legislation, which has stalled in previous years, has considerable momentum.

The announcement of new support came the same day a few hundred gay rights supporters convened in Annapolis for a rally and delivered carnations to lawmakers on Valentine's Day. Participants at the early evening rally held signs saying such things as "Love Will Prevail."

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which held a seven-hour hearing on the legislation last week, has scheduled a vote Thursday. Seven of the 11 committee members have said they will vote to send the bill to the floor.

A change of mind

One of those members, Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County), stunned his colleagues last week with his announcement that he would support the bill.

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