Maryland marriage debate delayed; supporters agree to opposition amendment

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland House of Delegates on Thursday put off for at least one day a scheduled debate on legislation to legalize same-sex marriage, leading some to speculate that supporters lack the votes to pass the legislation.

And in a surprise development, supporters of the Civil Marriage Protection Act agreed to accept an amendment they helped to defeat in committee earlier this week that would put off the date same-sex marriages would become legal from October of this year to January 2013 if the bill should pass.

Washington Blade photo by Michael Key.

In the committee debate, supporters of the amendment, nearly all of whom opposed the bill, said it was needed to prevent same-sex marriages from being performed in Maryland before a referendum could be held to overturn the legislation should the legislature pass it.

The amendment’s backers said they did not want a situation similar to California, where hundreds [thousands?] of same-sex marriages were performed before voters approved Proposition 8, which overturned the state’s same-sex marriage law.

During a brief debate early Thursday evening in the full House, Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-Montgomery County), the floor leader for the marriage bill, startled some supporters when she told House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel County) that the bill’s supporters would accept the proposal as a friendly amendment.

It then passed by voice vote.

Minutes later, Busch agreed to requests by delegates who support and oppose the marriage bill to send a flurry of proposed floor amendments to the bill to the joint Judiciary Committee and Health and Government Operations Committee so the two panels could conduct a last-minute review to begin at 11 a.m. Friday.

Busch announced that the full House would resume debate over the amendments after it goes back into session at 12:30 p.m. Friday.

It could not be immediately determined whether a vote would take place Friday on the bill itself.

Representatives of Marylanders for Marriage Equality and Equality Maryland couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

News of the delay in debate on the bill and the approval of the amendment to put off the effective date of legalizing same-sex marriages came several hours after Del. Wade Kach (R-Baltimore County) announced he would vote for the bill.

His announcement boosted the hopes of the bill’s supporters that other Republicans would follow Kach, enabling backers to reach attain the 71 delegates needed to pass the bill.

Representatives of Marylanders for Marriage Equality and Equality Maryland couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

News of the delay in debate on the bill and the approval of the amendment to put off the effective date of legalizing same-sex marriages came several hours after Del. Wade Kach (R-Baltimore County) announced he would vote for the bill.

His announcement boosted the hopes of the bill’s supporters that other Republicans would follow Kach, enabling backers to reach attain the 71 delegates needed to pass the bill.

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