A hearing in the Maryland House to consider Governor Martin O'Malley's plan to make Maryland the next state to legalize gay marriage turned emotional on Friday.

The joint hearing included members of the Judiciary Committee and the Health and Government Relations Committee. Both panels will consider the measure.

A gay marriage bill last year narrowly managed to clear the Judiciary Committee before it fizzled in the House. With two panels voting on the bill, a positive outcome in either could be used as justification to send the legislation to the floor.

“It is not right or just that the children of gay couples should have lesser protections than the children of other families in our state,” O'Malley told the panel. “Nor would it be right to force religious institutions to conduct marriages that conflict with their own religious beliefs and teachings.”

At the hearing, O'Malley was flanked by two African American ministers, who also testified in support of the legislation.

The grueling 11-hour hearing included many heated moments as dozens of supporters and opponents testified.

An exchange between Delegate Luiz R. S. Simmons, a Democrat from Montgomery, and a panel of religious leaders opposed to marriage equality became tense when Simmons questioned the witnesses' motivations.

“I have heard no evidence at all how same sex marriage affects your families, the church … There's not a syllable of evidence. You just don't like it,” Simmons said.

Emotions flared throughout the day, including when a man who claimed to have altered his sexuality (he said it was like coming off heroin) and his daughter testified. Under questioning from lawmakers, the daughter said she would not support her father if he decided to marry a man.

The committees could vote on the measure as soon as next week.