After a week of stalling actions by opponents, the Maryland House of Delegates gave key approval today to a bill to raise the state's legal drinking age to 21 for all alcoholic beverages.

The bill must be voted on for a third and final time on the House floor, but the outcome of that vote--which could come by Friday--was largely determined last week when the House rejected a compromise move to limit the age increase to 19.

The drinking age bill, a top priority for Gov. Harry Hughes and the General Assembly leadership, passed today by voice vote with a resounding chorus of "ayes." The action came after the House rejected a series of amendments aimed at either gutting the bill or exempting various categories of young people from the new higher age.

No amendments can be offered when the bill comes up for the final vote.

On the Senate side, a key committee approved the same bill last week by a 6-to-2 vote, with the dissenters threatening to take their fight for a 19-year-old drinking age to the floor. But the opponents conceded that they have little chance of derailing one of the most popular election-year issues. All Senate floor action has been held up because of a seven-day-old filibuster on redistricting.