A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the state of Maryland overcame its greatest obstacle last week, as it passed the House of Delegates in a narrow 72-67 vote — a split reflected in the Howard County delegation vote.
Howard's eight delegates were almost evenly split on the issue: "Yea" votes came from District 13 Democrats Guy Guzzone, Shane Pendergrass and Frank Turner, as well as District 12 Democrats Liz Bobo and James Malone. "Nay" votes came from District 9 Republicans Gail Bates and Warren Miller and District 12 Democrat Steven DeBoy.
"I believe traditional marriage is between a man and a woman," DeBoy said, explaining his vote against the bill. He said he would have supported legislation legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples.
In anticipation of the bill being petitioned to referendum and to sway some delegates who were hesitant to support it, the House passed an amendment that would change the effective date from Oct. 1, 2012 to Jan. 1, 2013.
Referendum petition efforts are expected. If any are successful, the issue will end up on the ballot in the 2012 election.
"I'll be working hard to see that the bill is approved by the voters, and I'm optimistic about that," said Bobo, a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage legislation. "Although I know there are people who have concerns about it, I truly believe it's going to be a benefit to everyone in the state. ... When anyone's rights are at risk, everyone's rights are at risk."
In a statement released after the House's vote Friday, Feb. 17, Gov.Martin O'Malley, who sponsored the bill this year, said: "Today, the House of Delegates voted for human dignity. Speaker Busch and his fellow delegates deserve a lot of credit for their hard work. At its heart, their vote was a vote for Maryland's children."
Last year, a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage passed the Senate, but the House sent the bill back to committee, where it died after the leadership realized they were a few votes short of what was needed for passage.
This year, the bill started in the House. It is expected to pass the Senate this week. Howard Sens. Jim Robey, Ed Kasemeyer and Allan Kittleman, who all voted "yes" last year, are expected to support the bill again this year. Kittleman was the only Republican senator who voted for the bill last year; he is co-sponsoring the bill this year.