The Civil Marriage Protection Act, SB 116, was passed by a vote of 25-21 after several hours of debate both this morning and this afternoon. Governor Martin O’Malley has already pledged to sign the bill.
Senator Richard S. Madaleno Jr., a Montgomery County Democrat and the senate’s first openly gay member, hailed the vote as historic.
“It demonstrates our commitment to civil rights and equality to all,” he said in an email to supporters. “The House of Delegates should act swiftly to provide loving families across our state with the dignity and respect we deserve.”
The bill is similar to the marriage equality bill passed in Washington D.C. in 2009 and enacted last year, in that it exempts religious leaders from performing ceremonies if they object to same-gender marriage.
The bill now goes to the state House, where that chamber is expected to begin hearings as early as Friday.
With a heavy Democratic majority in the House, the bill is expected to pass without any issues, positioning Maryland to become the sixth state to extend full marriage equality to its LGBT citizens.
The Democrats hold a 98-43 majority in the House, and one House representative said there are at least 71 “absolute commitments” for the bill.