Shortly after meeting with Gov. Martin O’Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Democratic delegates filed into the House chamber Thursday night, where both parties’ members overwhelming accepted by voice vote an amendment to push back the effective date of a same-sex marriage bill.
The amendment, which was initially rejected by two House committees Tuesday, changes the date the legislation would go into effect from October 2012 to January 2013, preventing same-sex couples from marrying until after a referendum can occur.
The amendment was the only one considered Thursday night, and debate on the bill was postponed until Friday morning, marking the third time it has been delayed. The outcome of the legislation remains unclear.
A key bill supporter, Delegate Veronica L. Turner, D-Prince George’s, was hospitalized Wednesday and must undergo a procedure on Friday, raising the possibility that a floor vote may be delayed again.
The vote followed a long day of back and forth lobbying in the House Office Building that featured appearances from bill champion O’Malley and a press conference by representatives from the Maryland Family Alliance, a group opposed to same-sex marriage.
O’Malley made the rounds in the House Office Building, where he met behind closed doors in the Environmental Matters Committee offices in the afternoon, and with the Democratic Caucus in the early evening.
Earlier, O’Malley met privately with House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel. Afterward, he would not comment on the meeting.
“We’re all still working. A lot of dialogue and a lot of conversation and a lot of really good people on both sides of this issue within the Democratic caucus are trying to find a way forward,” O’Malley told Capital News Service. “And the way forward is for greater protection and respect for the equal rights of all.”
House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, and other opponents of the bill, sounded confident throughout the day.
“This is a bipartisan opposition with 30 or 40 members of both parties. About 35 give or take in both parties. Maybe 40 in the Republicans, 30, 32 in the Democrat party opposed to the bill,” O’Donnell said.
More than 40 bill opponents from the Maryland Family Alliance, led by Rev. Derek McCoy, held a press conference around 3:30 p.m., voicing concern about how the governor has handled the bill and pushing for the amendment to adjust the bill’s effective date.
“We believe that a decision of this magnitude should not be decided on behalf of Maryland citizens without a clear and legitimate legislative process,” McCoy said.
Bill supporters say they are hovering around the 71 vote mark, the majority needed to pass the Civil Marriage Protection Act in the House and push it to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.
The Judiciary and Health and Government Operations committees on Tuesday passed the measure with a 25-18 vote to send it to the floor. Among the yes votes in committee was Delegate Robert Costa of Anne Arundel, the first House Republican to vote in favor of the bill.
O’Malley and bill supporters have been courting undecided Republicans as a key group to make up the “couple” votes still needed to ensure passage.
That effort took a hit Wednesday when previously undecided Republican Patrick N. Hogan of Frederick announced he would be voting against the bill.
Supporters did pick up a yes vote from Republican Wade Kach of Baltimore County Thursday morning. Kach, a member of the Health and Government Operations Committee, voted against the bill Tuesday.
“I will cast my green vote with confidence that this bill protects religious freedom and that the issue will ultimately be decided by the voters of our state,” he said in a statement.
CNS TV’s Katelin Wangberg contributed to this report.