Del. Anne R. Kaiser, a Montgomery County Democrat who is a lesbian, told the House that her parents wanted her to enjoy a long life and to find someone to love.

"I have, and I want to be married," she said. "Marriage — nothing more, nothing less."

Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr., an Anne Arundel County Republican who fiercely opposes gay marriage, struck a conciliatory tone.

"I know all of you expect me to get up here and go into a tirade," he said before extending an olive branch. "I will be forever grateful to my friends on the other side of the issue who have extended their hand."

If the General Assembly passes the bill and Maryland voters ratify it in a referendum, he said, "who am I to stand in the way?"

Democratic Del.Emmett C. Burnsof Baltimore County, a minister and outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, said that everywhere he goes, people tell him the Assembly shouldn't pass the bill.

"I believe that people who are gay have a right to be that, but the word 'marriage' should not be attached," he said.

Burns predicted that the religious protections in the bill would be inadequate.

"Down the road, if we pass this, some smart lawyer is going to find a way to sue this church because they have this outreach program or they won't provide a wedding," Burns said.

But Del.John A. Olszewski Jr., a Democrat from southeastern Baltimore County who negotiated some of those protections, said the governor's bill "goes above and beyond" to protect the right of religious institutions to decide what is right for them.

"To go another day denying full rights to all Marylanders would be a disgrace," he said.

After the vote, proponents celebrated.

Lisa Polyak, a board member of Equality Maryland who has long advocated such a measure, wiped away tears. "I can't believe this day has come," she said. "Tomorrow we will worry about the petition drive. Tonight we will celebrate."

For McIntosh, it was special moment. Her first move, after the bill's passage was announced, was to shake hands with House Minority LeaderAnthony J. O'Donnell, a leading opponent. Moments later, she and Kaiser shared a celebratory embrace.

"This is the best day, moment of my 23 years in the legislature," McIntosh said.

When he emerged from the chamber, Busch was greeted with cheers — many from couples who are the bill's potential beneficiaries.

Busch said the outcome, which he supported, "feels great." Choking up as he addressed the crowd, the speaker said jokingly, "I don't want to be like John Boehner," referring to the frequently teary speaker of the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, some opponents reacted angrily.

Del. Mike McDermott, an Eastern Shore Republican, released a statement saying that the vote "makes no sense at all."

"At the end of the day, the governor and liberal leadership decided that they knew better than God how to define marriage," he said. "It is a travesty of the legislative system, and it truly is a sad day for the people of Maryland."

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