The Maryland House of Delegates will vote Friday on a last-minute amendment to a gay marriage bill.

The amendment, offered by Democratic Delegate John A. Olszewski Jr. in the House Judiciary Committee, would further protect religious groups.

The amendment would broaden the bill's religious protections by replacing a narrow list of religious exceptions with an open-ended statement that would protect religious groups from “the promotion of marriage in violation of the entity's religious beliefs.”

“I'm just trying to find a balance between equal rights for all citizens and protections for religion,” Olszewski told the Baltimore Sun.

The House put off voting on the amendment until Friday. A final vote on the bill is also expected on Friday morning.

Before Wednesday's session, House Speaker Michael Bush warned that any changes to the bill, approved two weeks ago by the Senate, could kill it. Gay marriage backers fought off four proposed amendments to advance the bill to a third and final vote.

Supporters concede they remain several votes shy of victory in the 141-member chamber.

Opponents of gay marriage are widely expected to mount a referendum on the law, if it is approved by lawmakers.