ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland is poised to become the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage as majority leaders in both chambers of the state legislature plan to introduce gay marriage legislation this session.
State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., an openly gay lawmaker, is sponsoring the gay marriage bill in the Senate, and said he plans to push for passage this session.
Sen. Majority Leader Rob Garagiola said he would add his name to the bill, and that passing a gay marriage bill is “something that I think we need to do … I look at this as a civil rights issue.”
Prospects for passage of a the bill have greatly improved since the November elections, when a Democratic pickup of two seats and a shift in committee memberships changed the dynamic in the Senate, where gay marriage bills have stalled in the past.
“I could not have hoped for a better result,” Madaleno said. “You can see a real path to enacting this legislation.”
The House version will be introduced by Democratic Majority Leader Kumar Barve.
The bills, if passed, would remove a long-standing requirement in Maryland law that recognizes only marriages between a man and a woman. Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley has publicly stated that he would sign a marriage bill into law.
Sensing momentum on the issue, Republican State Senate Minority Leader Allan H. Kittleman said he will introduce a bill to allow civil unions for both same- and opposite-sex couples.
But calling same-sex relationships anything other than marriage is a nonstarter for gay rights advocates.
“We’ve taken those small steps forward. It’s time to live with the promise that is marriage equality. No other institution provides the legal protections,” said Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of Equality Maryland, the state’s largest LGBT rights group.
If passed, Maryland would join Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C., in sanctioning same-sex marriages.