The odds that Maryland will become the next state to legalize gay marriage increase as proponents prepare to take over a key Senate committee.

Proposed bills that would legalize gay marriage have previously died in the 11-member Judicial Proceedings Committee, but new assignments announced on Friday boost the number of supporters to six, paving the way for such a bill to reach the Democrat-controlled Senate floor.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat who opposes gay marriage, signed off on the committee assignments.

“I believe every important issue should be voted on by the full chamber at least once,” he told the Washington Post.

Maryland Democrats avoided a Republican wave that overtook many state Legislatures on November 2 to pick-up two seats in the Senate. Moreover, several Democrats who oppose gay marriage in the General Assembly were sent packing.

Openly gay state Senator Richard Madaleno predicted the odds of Maryland legalizing the institution in the next year are in the “six, seven, eight” out of ten range. That was before the new committee assignments were announced.

The number of openly gay lawmakers also increased on November 2 – up from five to seven – a development Madaleno called important.

“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.