The Maryland House of Delegates is
expected to begin debate on a gay marriage bill on Wednesday.
Backers will fight to keep the bill,
approved two weeks ago by the Senate, free from amendments, allowing
the House to send the legislation directly to Governor Martin
O'Malley, who has promised to sign it into law. Any changes would
send the bill back to the Senate for its OK.
House Speaker Michael Bush has warned
that any changes to the bill could kill it.
Among the proposed amendments expected
are some that would broaden the bill's religious exemptions and an
amendment that would recognize gay and lesbian couples with civil
unions, instead of marriage.
measure stumbled out of the House Judiciary Committee last week after
two members altered their votes and a third wavered.
Supporters concede they remain a few
votes shy of a win in the Democrat-controlled House.
Over the weekend, the House's six
openly gay delegates urged colleagues to approve the measure.
“Please vote yes,” the members
wrote in a letter. “Vote yes because you know it is the right
thing to do. Vote yes because you want to stand on the right side of
history. Vote yes because every family in Maryland needs the
protections that marriage provides.”
Opponents of gay marriage are widely
expected to mount a referendum on the law, if approved by lawmakers.