O'Malley to breakfast with gay advocates Tuesday

Gov. Martin O'Malley will host a breakfast in Annapolis Tuesday with some gay activists and members of the religious community to discuss his bill legalizing same-sex marriage.

The governor is expected to introduce his same-sex marriage bill this evening. He told reporters that the legislation will clarify exemptions for religious organizations that don't want to participate or honor same-sex unions.

"If there's a difference [this year] it will probably be in regard to the respect for religious freedom and making that a little clearer in this bill," O'Malley said. He declined to elaborate.

The bill passed last year in the Senate and is expected to do so again. But it stalled in the House, where last year legislation attracted 59 co-sponsors (four of them later dropped off.) Seventy-one votes are needed for passage in that chamber.

O'Malley played down expectations that his bill would have more delegates on it this year. "We haven't worked so much on cosponsors as addressing the concerns that kept it from passing last time around," O'Malley said.

In the Senate, a hearing scheduled on Jan. 31 for all bills relating to same-sex marriage in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Testimony will be limited to two hours on each side.

In the House, the bill will be jointly referred to the Judiciary and the Health and Government Affairs panels.