State Senator Richard Madaleno predicts the odds of Maryland legalizing gay marriage next year are are in the “six, seven, eight” out of ten range.

The openly gay Democrat first elected in 2002 will be joined in the Legislature next year by six openly gay lawmakers in the House of Delegates, up from four last year. Madaleno remains the only openly gay senator.

“Just by having out people there to participate in the conversation fundamentally alters the discussion,” he told “The tenor of the conversation changes. It humanizes it.”

Maryland adopted a February gay marriage opinion by Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler that favored recognizing the marriages of gay couples performed in other jurisdictions over the objection of a state law that bans such unions. The institution is legal in neighboring District of Columbia. And the state began offering gay state employees equal marriage benefits as heterosexual couples in May.

Governor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, has pledged to sign a gay marriage bill into law if approved by lawmakers.

“In the Senate, I'm confident we are where we have to be to end debate and pass a bill,” Madaleno said.