Same-sex marriage bill stalls in Maryland

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 1, 2011; 8:36 PM

A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland stalled unexpectedly Tuesday after two delegates who had previously pledged their support deliberately skipped a key voting session needed to move the legislation forward.

Del. Tiffany T. Alston (D-Prince George's) said in an interview that she needed more time "to think and to pray" about what she considers a "deeply personal issue for myself and my constituents."

Del. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore) said she continues to support the bill but was withholding her committee vote to gain "leverage" on school funding and another largely unrelated issue.

The development appeared to stun many of their colleagues, including House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who said that both delegates had signed on as co-sponsors of the same-sex marriage legislation, usually an indication of strong support.

Without the backing of Carter and Alston, the House Judiciary Committee lacked the votes needed to pass the legislation Tuesday morning. The panel postponed its voting session on the bill until Tuesday night.

After an afternoon of backroom meetings, House aides indicated that the committee was going to try again. But shortly after 6 p.m., the committee chairman said he had no plans to call a vote and did not indicate when he would.

Asked whether the high-profile legislation was in trouble, Busch said: "Right now, we're waiting to see what the issues are surrounding the bill."

The legislation, which would remove Maryland's requirement that marriages be between a man and a woman, has been moving forward at a rapid clip since the Senate passed it last week in a 25-to-21 vote.

House leaders had been angling for a vote by the end of the week on the House floor, and advocates on both sides expected it to be very close. The full chamber rarely votes on legislation without a favorable vote by the committee that considers it.

Some bill opponents predicted that the leaders of the Democratic-led House would still find a way to move the legislation forward, despite Tuesday's setback.

"They're going to twist arms until they get it," said Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Cecil).

Alston, a freshman delegate, avoided reporters for much of the day. In a brief interview after the committee postponed voting for a second time, Alston said she planned to issue a statement explaining her position.

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