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No Maryland Marriage Vote Today

No Maryland Marriage Vote Today

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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.

Debate Friday was marked by emotional speeches and at least one unsuccessful attempt to amend the proposal. As debate approached its second hour near 1 p.m., Del. Cheryl Glenn, citing her religious beliefs, offered an amendment to change the name of the bill to "civil unions" and not marriage.

"Don't call it marriage. Call it civil unions," she said.

The proposal failed by a voice vote, and Del. Mike McDermott said those who voted against the amendment had forsaken a "bridge."

Del. Mary Washington, an African-American lesbian, dismissed the idea.

"The 'bridge' that is offered by civil unions is a bridge that takes us nowhere," she said.

In an indication of the emotional intensity surrounding the debate, delegates engaged in an early back-and-forth about whether the struggle for marriage equality could be compared to the civil rights movement. Almost one third of Maryland's 5.7 million residents are African-American.

Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Democratic delegate from Baltimore County, delivered a lengthy speech in which he argued that marriage equality advocates who would "ride in on the coattails" of the civil rights movement were "historically incorrect." The African-American lawmaker invoked the Declaration of Independence as he challenged the bill's supporters to produce examples of persecution comparable to what civil rights advocates endured.

"Show me your Selma, Ala.," he said. "Show me your hands and let me see the scars that my race has known, that my people has known."

Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk later received a standing ovation when she challenged Burns in her reply, reminding him that the late state senator Gwen Britt, a primary force behind marriage equality legislation in the state, was African-American.

Had the vote occurred in the house, it was expected to be close, with supporters of the bill still short of the 71 votes needed to pass the measure as of Thursday evening.

The Civil Marriage Protection Act passed the senate by a vote of 25 to 21 last month but has encountered a bumpier ride in the house, traditionally thought to be the more liberal of the two chambers. Obstacles included Democratic cosponsors in the house judiciary committee who abruptly opposed the bill before the panel advanced it last week by a 12 to 10 vote.

Gov. Martin O'Malley has promised to sign the bill, although opponents have vowed to collect enough signatures to call a referendum on it in 2012.

Follow the Tweets from the ongoing debate below and on Twitter.

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Maryland marriage bill recommitted to house judiciary committee. #Marryland

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Clippinger:"I'm a long-suffering fan of the Baltimore Orioles and I am a hopeful fan of the Baltimore Ravens, but i am not 'less than.'"

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Del. Luke Clippinger, who is gay: "I'm here today to proclaim to this house that I am not 'less than.'"#Marryland

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Mizeur:"All you can do is make it really, really really difficult for us in the most challenging times when life can throw you curve balls."

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Mizeur to opponents: "You can't stop us from loving each other. You can't stop us from getting married."

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Mizeur says,"It is love that makes a family, but it is marriage that protects it."

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Mizeur says it is easier to do "God's will" in life with help from her "soul mate," Deborah.

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Mizeur: "We have an option on how we are going to create our reality. We have an option on how we are going to design our day." #Marryland

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Del. Mary Washington: "The 'bridge' that is offered by civil unions is a bridge that takes us nowhere." #Marryland

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Walker: "My foundation, my beliefs, the people that have always backed me, have made the ask for us not to vote for this bill." #Marryland

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Del. Jay Walker: "As long as we are not allowing people to get involved, I cannot support this measure." #Marryland

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Del. McDermott: "If this is taken to the voters, they'll defeat it." He says advocates should have taken the civil unions "bridge"#Marryland

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Kaiser receives sustained applause for her speech. #Marryland

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Kaiser wants to marry her girlfriend in Maryland. #Marryland

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Del. Anne Kaiser decries opponents who have said the bill would permit her to marry "a toaster, an android, or a cat." #Marryland

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The amendment to change marriage bill to civil unions fails the Maryland house of delegates. #Marryland

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Del. Kathleen Dumais rises to urge colleagues to reject amendment: "No one knows what a civil union is," she says. #Marryland

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Del. Cheryl Glenn, citing her Christian faith, offers amendment: "Don't call it marriage. Call it civil unions." #Marryland

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Del. Aisha Braveboy, who opposes marriage bill, says, "This decision will ultimately be decided in the court of law." #Marryland

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Del. Doyle Niemann: "They (the scars) are there. They're just hidden because they haven't been brought to light." #Marryland

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Del. Schuh: "Traditional marriage is a means of perpetuating our species." Same-sex relationships "don't benefit society broadly."#Marryland

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Delegates give resounding applause to Pena-Melnyk for her reply to Burns. #Marryland

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Del. Burns: "Show me your hands and let me see the scars that my race has known, that my people has known." #Marryland

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Del. Emmett Burns: This bill "turns a moral wrong into a civil right." #Marryland

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Unlike his African-American race, says Burns, "Those who are gay can disguise their propensity." #Marryland

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Del. Burns, who believes that civil rights movement and marriage equality cannot be compared: "Show me your Selma, Alabama." #Marryland

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"Show me the dynamite, the hangman's nose, the albatross thrown around the neck of Emmett Till." #Marryland

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Burns: "Show me the Ku Klux Klan home invasions, the billy clubs, your James Meredith." #Marryland

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Burns: "Show me your Birmingham, Alabama where high-pressure water hoses were turned on us." #Marryland

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Burns: marriage equality advocates who would "ride in on the coattails" of the civil rights movement are "historically incorrect."#Marryland

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The civil rights movement had "nothing to do with same-sex marriage," says Burns. #Marryland

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Maryland delegate Emmett Burns says he is "unalterably opposed" to marriage bill, quotes Declaration of Independence. #Marryland

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