ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland House of Delegates on Wednesday rejected four amendments to the state’s marriage equality bill, and voted to advance the bill to a third — and possibly final — reading, on Thursday.
Under the bill, same-sex couples in Maryland would be granted the same marriage rights as heterosexuals. The bill could come up for a vote and final approval in the House as early as Friday.
The amendments, any of which could have derailed the bill’s chances for passage, included one that would have changed the name of the bill from the Civil Marriage Protection Act to the “Same-Sex Marriage Act.” That was rejected 52-85.
Another amendment that would have “required” a public referendum on same-same marriage was also defeated.
The other amendments that were rejected would have exempted organizations from providing adoption, foster care, or social services if doing so would “violate the entity’s religious beliefs,” and that public school teachers would not “be required to teach the materials (related to same-sex marriage) and a parent shall be given an opportunity to have the parent’s child excused from the instruction under certain circumstances.”
If the House had approved the amendments, the bill would have returned to the Senate for approval.
Senate leaders have said they do not have the time or the support to approve any changes to the gay marriage bill, which they passed two weeks ago.
If the bill passes, Gov. Martin O’Malley has promised to sign it into law.
But opponents have said that they will seek a referendum for which a total of 55,736 signatures are required on the petition and must be submitted to Secretary of State John P. McDonough (D) by June 30. One third of those signatures are due on May 31.
Also on Wednesday, a member of Maryland’s legislature announced in an exclusive interview with the Washington Blade that he is gay.
Del. Peter Murphy (D-Charles County), a divorced father of two who also has two grandchildren, said his colleagues and family have known for years that he is gay.
“I have never denied [being gay],” Murphy said, “I just presumed people knew.”
Murphy’s announcement brings to eight the total number of openly gay and lesbian members of Maryland’s legislature, the most of any state in the country. There is one openly gay state senator — Rich Madaleno — and now seven members of the House of Delegates.
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund praised Murphy’s announcement: “It’s still a courageous thing for public officials who are gay or lesbian to serve openly and honestly, so we applaud Delegate Murphy’s decision,” said Denis Dison, Victory Fund’s vice president of communications.