ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Two Democrats blocked a critical vote on the Civil Marriage Protection Act in the Maryland House of Delegate’s Judiciary Committee late Tuesday afternoon, stalling the measure from advancing to the full House as quickly as previously expected.
Delegates Jill Carter (D-Baltimore) and Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George), want school funds restored in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s budget plan before they will vote for the gay marriage bill. The two skipped a morning vote, and forced House leaders to delay a second.
Legislation to recognize same-sex marriage, which sailed to relatively smooth passage last week in the state Senate, hit unexpected turbulence in a key House committee on Tuesday, when two of the bill’s co-sponsors staged a walkout rather than vote in favor of it.
House leaders spoke at length to the two Democrats … but as the House Judiciary Committee ended its work for the day, the impasse remained.
“Right now we are waiting to see what the issues are surrounding the bill,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, who met with Judiciary Committee members throughout the day. It was unclear whether the committee would try again Wednesday to vote on the measure.
Carter said said she is “absolutely” willing to take a hit for withdrawing her support on gay marriage if it makes a larger point about her favored issues. She said she wants to draw attention to city education funding cuts and to her own bill about child custody in divorces, two issues she said are “more important, or at least equally important.”
“I’m trying to leverage the vote to get something for my constituents,” she said.
Alston, a newly elected member, said she now feels torn about the proposal itself, calling it a “deeply personal issue.”
“I need time to think it through,” Alston said. “I need time to pray.”
Last week the bill passed the Senate in a close vote of 25-21, but passage in the House of Delegates is at risk. The measure’s key sponsors said they believe they are at least 8 votes shy of the 71 needed for passage.