The Maryland Senate has for a second
time approved a bill legalizing gay marriage in the state.
After more than two hour's worth of
debate, one Republican, Senator Allan Kittleman, crossed the aisle to
join 24 Democrats in voting for the bill.
Kittleman told colleagues that marriage
equality is the “civil rights issue of our generation.”
The move comes nearly a week after the
House of Delegates approved the measure and days after the Senate
Judiciary Proceedings Committee sent it to the full Senate.
A gay marriage bill cleared the Senate
last year before it was ultimately shelved in the House due to lack
Supporters fought back about a
half-dozen Republican amendments, including one which would have
expanded the bill's religious protections to include private
businesses and individuals.
Democratic Senator Rich Madaleno, the
chamber's only openly gay member, urged colleagues to let him marry
his long-term partner.
In promoting the bill, Governor Martin
O'Malley has said that the legislation is needed to help protect the
children of gay and lesbian couples.
“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 testified during
a committee hearing. “Nor would it be right to force religious
institutions to conduct marriages that conflict with their own
religious beliefs and teachings.”
Opponents of the measure have vowed to
put the issue before voters in the fall. To put the measure on the
ballot, opponents need nearly 56,000 valid signatures, one-third of
which would need to be submitted by May 31 and the remainder by June
Maryland becomes the eighth state to
legalize gay nuptials. Earlier this month, Washington state
lawmakers approved a similar measure.