- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2012

ANNAPOLIS — The Senate voted Thursday to legalize same-sex marriage, making Maryland the eighth state along with the District to approve such legislation.

The chamber voted 25-22 in favor of the measure, which passed the House last week. The bill will now go to Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat who sponsored the legislation and said he will sign it into law next week.

After narrowly passing the sharply-divided House with some last-minute vote wrangling by Democratic leaders, the bill had a much easier road in the Senate.

“It’s just a remarkable day for the people of the state of Maryland,” said Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., a Montgomery Democrat who is openly gay. “And I’m just so proud that I’ve been a part of it.”

Supporters had lobbied since last year’s bill died in the House and received a valuable ally last summer when Mr. O'Malley announced he would sponsor this year’s bill, hoping to follow in the footsteps of New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat who last year successfully shepherded a gay-marriage bill through his legislature.

This year, supporters continued to argue that marriage is a civil right that should also apply to gays, but also based a larger part of their argument on assuring religious groups that the bill would not infringe on their beliefs.

The bill would allow gays to enter state-recognized marriages but would exempt religious institutions and faith-based groups from having to perform or recognize such unions.

After the House passed this year’s bill by a 72-67 vote, the Senate engaged Thursday in a pair of largely civil debate.

Opponents submitted several amendments — including changes to increase protections for religious groups and religion-minded residents — all of which were rejected by the bill’s supporters.

The House passed amendments last week to push the bill’s effective date from October to January and prevent it from being enacted until any lawsuits over a referendum effort are resolved.

The amendments would also require the law to be voided if any part is declared unconstitutional.

The Senate resisted further amendments largely in an effort to keep the bill from returning to the contentious House, to the dismay of opponents.

“If we have opportunity to improve upon this bill, then we should do so,” said Sen. Christopher B. Shank, Washington Republican. “And I think it is our obligation to do so.”

The legislation passed with support from 24 of 35 Democrats and just one of 12 Republicans — Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, Howard Republican. It was opposed by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who said he still considers marriage between a man and woman.

“Am I on the wrong side of history, as a historian? There’s no doubt,” said Mr. Miller, a Prince George’s Democrat. “But at the same time, I understand that I’ll deal with that in my own mind.”

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