Marriage Equality Bill Introduced in Maryland

BY Julie Bolcer

January 25 2011 11:15 AM ET

A marriage equality bill has been introduced in the Maryland house of delegates, following introduction of the bill in the state senate last week.

Lawmakers and advocates including Equality Maryland, Freedom to Marry, and representatives from religious and civil rights groups held a press conference at the state capitol in Annapolis Tuesday morning to announce the introduction of the legislation. According to the media advisory, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, which was introduced in the house by majority leader Kumar Barve, “ends the exclusion of committed same-sex couples from civil marriage and protects the religious freedom of churches and synagogues.”

Last week the measure was introduced in the senate by majority leader Rob Garagiola, whose lead sponsorship of the bill is considered one of many favorable indicators this session. As of Friday, 18 senators had signed on as cosponsors of the bill, which needs 24 votes to pass the senate.

"Same-sex couples are now free to marry in five states and next door in the District of Columbia as well as a dozen countries worldwide," said Freedom to Marry political director Sean Eldridge in remarks at the press conference Tuesday. "And in each of these places, the sky has not fallen, and families have been helped, with no one hurt. Because there is no good reason to continue excluding same-sex couples from marriage, Freedom to Marry supports the work of our Maryland partners to pass the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act into law."

Backers expect committee hearings and a vote in the full senate next month, followed by movement in the house in March. In a call with bloggers Friday, advocates projected confidence the bill would pass both chambers by the time the Democratic-controlled legislature adjourns in April. However, opposition is expected from the Maryland Catholic Conference, the National Organization for Marriage, and a new NOM-affiliated group, Protect Marriage Maryland.

Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he will sign the marriage equality bill.









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