On Thursday, Maryland’s Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 7-4 to proceed with a bill that would eliminate the requirement that marriage be between a man and a woman. The bill will now be brought to the full Senate floor and, if passed, will continue to the House of Delegates.
The Senate is expected to discuss and debate the bill throughout next week, which is called “The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act.” It has been one of the most high-profile social issues of the current 90-day session, and political analysts believe there are currently at least 24 Senate votes in its favor—enough to ensure its passage. This includes a vote from Senator James C. Rosapepe, who came out in favor of the legislation shortly after the committee vote and “provided some cushion for supporters heading into next week’s floor debate,” according to The Washington Post.
“I intend to vote for the bill as it was reported out of committee with a strengthened conscience clause to respect the views of religious denominations which do not recognize same-sex marriage,” said Rosapepe in an e-mail to his constituents.
Senator Joan Carter Conway has said that she would vote for the bill if hers were the deciding vote, but otherwise remains vague about her position. John C. Astle is the only other Senator who is undecided. The bill was written and introduced by Sen. Rich Madaleno and Sen. Jamie Raskin at the end of January. Raskin told Metro Weekly that it is in “good shape,” and he expects it to be introduced this upcoming Monday or Tuesday. Other politicians and religious leaders have expressed support for the bill as well.
The House of Delegates is generally considered the more liberal of the two chambers regarding social policy, and it is expected to support the legislation, beginning with the committee hearing planned for February 25. Still, even if legislation is approved in both chambers, opponents of marriage say they will pursue a provision in Maryland law that allows citizens to put approved legislation to a ballot vote.
GLAAD will continue reporting on coverage of marriage in Maryland throughout its developments next week, and urges media to represent gay and lesbian relationships in a meaningful way.