Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. predicted Thursday that a same-sex marriage bill would clear the General Assembly next year.

Miller (D-Calvert), an opponent of same-sex marriage, said that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s decision to sponsor a bill next year would matter “not a whole lot” when the lawmakers debate the issue again.

A bigger factor, Miller said, is what happened after lawmakers passed a bill this year that would grant in-state university tuition rates to illegal immigrants. Opponents of the bill took advantage of a provision in the state constitution that allows citizens to petition just-passed legislation to a statewide vote.

The relative ease with which the tuition bill was petitioned to the ballot should make clear that the same thing will happen with a same-sex marriage bill — which, in turn, will make it easier for some wavering delegates to vote for it, Miller said.

This year’s same-sex marriage bill failed in the House of Delegates after passing in the Senate.