A bill that would make Maryland the
sixth state to legalize gay marriage has cleared a House panel after
two members altered their position on the issue, the Washington
The measure cleared the House Judiciary
Committee on Friday with the help of its chairman, Joseph F. Vallario
Jr., a Democrat from Prince George and an opponent of gay marriage,
who provided the 12th vote needed for passage.
Vallario, who as chairman rarely votes,
moved to fill the void left behind when Delegate Tiffany Alston, a
co-sponsor of the bill, abruptly pulled her support for the measure.
Alston is one of two committee members
who missed Tuesday's early morning vote on the legislation, forcing
Vallario to delay the vote. The second member, Delegate Jill Carter,
said she was withholding her support to bring attention to other
issues, including education funding.
On Wednesday, Alston confidently said
she believed “all people should be treated equally regardless of
their sexual orientation,” suggesting she had returned her support,
but she backtracked the following morning, saying
she would propose an amendment that would replace civil marriages
with civil unions for both gay and straight couples.
Alston's amendment was unanimously
rejected, with Carter not voting either way.
Delegate Sam Arora managed to anger his
progressive base even as he voted for the bill. Arora, a co-sponsor
of the bill, began to waffle on the issue earlier in the week,
creating a storm of protest from former supporters who denounced his
wavering. Prior to casting his “yes” vote, Arora
announced he would support the measure “so that Marylanders can
ultimately decide this issue at the polls.”
Opponents of gay marriage are widely
expected to mount a referendum on the law, if approved by lawmakers.