ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland state Senate on Thursday passed the marriage equality bill by a vote of 25-22, sending it to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who sponsored the bill and is expected to sign it soon.
“Maryland will now be able to protect individual civil marriage rights & religious freedom equally,” O’Malley said via Twitter about a minute after the vote.
With O’Malley’s signature all but guaranteed, Maryland would become the eighth state to allow same-sex marriage, although opponents have vowed to force a public vote on the issue in November.
Even the bill’s staunchest supporters expect its opponents to easily gather the 55,736 signatures necessary to put the question on the November ballot, meaning the bill won’t go into effect until January 2013.
One third of the signatures need to be submitted to the State Board of Elections by May 31, with the rest by June 30.
The most recent poll on the issue, by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies, suggested Maryland voters are divided on the issue. The poll showed voters favoring same-sex marriage 49 percent to 47 percent, but the difference was within the poll’s margin of error.
Under Maryland’s Constitution, now that the Senate and House have passed identical same-sex marriage bills, the petition process can begin — with no need to wait for O’Malley to sign the bill into law.