ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A joint panel of two committees in the Maryland state legislature on Tuesday approved a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.
Gov. Martin O’Malley’s bill to allow same-sex unions was approved in a joint 25-18 vote by the House of Delegates’ Judiciary Committee and the Health and Government Operations Committee, moving Maryland closer to becoming the eighth state to legalize gay marriage.
A spokesperson for the Governor told LGBTQ Nation on Tuesday following the vote, that although O’Malley’s legislation is expected to go to the full House for a floor vote on Wednesday, supporters weren’t positive that there were the 71 votes needed for passage.
The spokesperson said O’Malley would be meeting in private to shore up support for the bill including a meeting with Montgomery County Delegate Sam Arora, a Democrat who has abstained, and whose vote is deemed critical to the bill’s passage.
A moment of surprise came when Republican delegate Robert Costa lent his support and voted yes, although was quick to point out that although he personally opposes same-sex marriages, but believes that “government should not be involved with determining how two people chose to live.”
“This is between and individual and god,” said Costa.
Following the vote, O’Malley said he had lobbied hard for support of the measure and needed only a handful of additional votes to secure passage this year.
The Maryland Senate, which passed the bill last year, was expected to consider the measure as early as Friday, according to state Sen. Brian Frosh, head of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
The Maryland committee’s vote came just one day after Washington became the seventh state to legalize same sex marriage, although that law will not take effect until June 7 at the earliest.
New Jersey’s Senate also approved a gay marriage bill on Monday, with the lower house expected to vote on Thursday. Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, has promised to veto the measure.
Last week, the U. S. Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals declared a voter-approved same-sex marriage ban in California unconstitutional.
Opponents of same-sex marriage in Maryland have threatened a ballot initiative to overturn the measure should it pass the state’s legislature and is signed into law as promised by the governor.
A Washington Post poll published last month showed that 50 percent of Maryland residents supported legalization of same-sex marriage, while 44 percent were opposed.