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 Post reported.

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.