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Hoyer to support gay marriage effort in Md.

Rep. Steny Hoyer's decision to support same-sex marriage could bring a powerful ally to efforts in Maryland to retain the gay marriage law in the state. A source close to Hoyer said Friday that the Democratic House leader will "oppose efforts to repeal the new Maryland law."

Hoyer said in a statement Thursday that "because I believe that equal treatment is a central tenet of our nation, I believe that extending the definition of marriage to committed relationships between two people, irrespective of their sex, is the right thing to do."

The Southern Maryland Democrat had previously backed a prohibition of gay marriage, voting with 117 other Democrats in support of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Hoyer's announcement followed President Barack Obama's decision Thursday to support same-sex marriage, though it's not likely his reelection campaign will engage on the issue at the state level.  

Other Democrats in Congress also adopted Obama's view, but Hoyer is in an unusual position given that Maryland's General Assembly approved a same-sex marriage months ago. The law does not take effect until January and is likely to be on the ballot for a referendum in November.

The source said it is too soon to know precisely what role Hoyer may take in supporting the state law.

"Obviously opponents haven't yet formally petitioned to set the referendum," the person said, "but certainly his statement clarifies where he stands on the issue." 

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