The House of Delegates will hold off debate on a same-sex marriage bill until Thursday, a procedural courtesy that allows delegates 24 hours to craft amendments and prepare for a floor debate.
With a vote from the full House expected to come sometime this week, the exact vote count remains uncertain. Proponents don’t know whether they have the 71 votes they need.
“When the vote goes up on the board is the only time we are really going to know whether or not we have the 71. I think we are hovering right around there right now, but in the spirit of the moment, we might see more people come our way,” Delegate Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, and a bill cosponsor, said Wednesday.
The first vote from a House Republican in favor of same-sex marriage came Tuesday when Delegate Robert Costa of Anne Arundel, a member of the Health and Government Operations Committee, voted to send the bill to the floor.
Gov. Martin O’Malley and House supporters are lobbying several Republicans to ensure they have the votes needed for passage, and hope Costa’s vote will inspire others like Delegate Patrick N. Hogan, who remains undecided.
“I think it opens the door for others to do the same and to see that there’s not going to be negative repercussions for standing up and doing the right thing,” Mizeur said.
Supporters may need a few Republican votes because some Democrats, particularly a number of black delegates from Prince George’s County, are opposed to the bill.
Among the Democrats remaining on the fence is Delegate John A. Olszewski of Baltimore County, who would not say if the religious protections incorporated into this year’s bill are enough to win his vote.
“I guess we’ll find out this week when the votes go up,” he said Wednesday morning.
The Senate version of the bill is awaiting a vote in the Judicial Proceedings Committee, where it is expected to pass and then move through the floor with relative ease.
Committee Chair Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery, said his committee likely will not act until the entire House has voted.
The full Senate approved same-sex marriage last year, only to watch the legislation fail in the House.