No Maryland Marriage Vote Today
BY Julie Bolcer
March 11 2011 10:20 AM ET
In another surprising twist in the long and winding path of the Maryland marriage equality bill, the house of delegates voted shortly after 2 p.m. to recommit the bill to committee, effectively ending debate for the foreseeable future and ensuring there would be no vote on the bill as had been anticipated Friday.
Maryland house of delegates chairman Joseph Vallario proposed the motion to recommit after almost three hours of impassioned debate. Advocates, though clearly stunned, struck an upbeat tone in their reaction to the move, which buys the measure time. As late as Friday, despite a last-minute push by Gov. Martin O'Malley and Democratic house leadership, the measure remained one to two votes short of the 71 required for passage.
"Though we are disappointed that we must continue to fight for marriage equality, today's move was a strategic step that will allow us to fight and win in the future," said Morgan Meneses-Sheets and Charles Butler, the executive director and board president, respectively, of Equality Maryland, the statewide advocacy group, in a statement.
"We celebrate that — for the first time — marriage equality legislation made it through the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, the Senate, the House Judiciary Committee, and was debated in the House of Delegates," they said.
"Equality Maryland is more committed than ever to this fight. Our setback today only strengthens our determination to redouble our efforts to ensure that our voices are heard and our rights are protected. We know our cause is just. We know that a growing majority of Marylanders believe in the same values of fairness and equality."
A coalition of groups including Equality Maryland, the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry, and Gill Action echoed that sentiment in a subsequent statement.
“Already this year we have made tremendous progress toward winning the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Maryland. Successful votes in the full Senate and House committee show there is a strong and growing movement toward the freedom to marry. Over the past several days it has become clear that additional time to continue the marriage conversation in the state will better position the Civil Marriage Protection Act for success. By taking a bit more time, the majority of Marylanders who support the freedom to marry in the state will have the opportunity to have their voices heard by their legislators," said the statement.
What had been expected to be the final debate began late Friday morning. With the decision to recommit, it became unclear when lawmakers would take up the bill again.