Gov. Martin O’Malley, testifying before two House committees Friday, said the same-sex marriage bill should be settled in the State House, not at the ballot box, rejecting the idea of an amendment that would automatically send the controversial legislation straight to referendum.
“People have spoken in a very real and personal sense by sending each of you here to make decisions for them,” he said, responding to a question from Delegate Michael A. McDermott, R-Worcester. “Especially when it comes to issues of individual rights, I think that it is best that we step up and make the decisions that we are sworn to make.”
O’Malley’s prepared remarks, part of a marathon hearing before the Judiciary and Health and Government Operations committees, were consistent with his testimony in front of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last week, and preceded a barrage of questions from Republican committee members.
As bill supporters continue to reach out for new votes, some have said that an amendment sending it straight to referendum could win over undecided delegates.
“You will get people to say, ‘Hey, I didn’t vote for it. I just put it on referendum.’ So I do believe it will get people there quicker,” said bill cosponsor Delegate Shawn Z. Tarrant, D-Baltimore.
But Judiciary Committee Chair Joseph Vallario, D-Prince George’s, said a referendum amendment looks unlikely at this point.
“It would require, I think, 85 votes, and I don’t know that they’re there,” he said Wednesday morning.
Delegate Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, who is openly gay and a bill cosponsor, said that supporters close to the vote count “have not had any discussions about plan B’s.”
House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, announced last month that The Civil Marriage Protection Act would be jointly assigned to the Health and Government Operations Committee because of its experience handling civil rights issues.
The Judiciary Committee has traditionally handled same-sex marriage. But several members balked last year, prompting Vallario, who typically does not vote in committee and has opposed same-sex marriage, to cast the deciding vote that sent the bill to the House floor.
Vallerio said he does not plan to take such a vote this year, but he will not know until he has heard the bill and testimony.
The bill stalled on the floor last year when supporters realized they were short of the 71 votes needed for passage.