A bill to legalize gay marriage in Maryland is on its way to the full state Senate.
The Judicial Proceedings Committee voted seven to four Tuesday to approve legislation passed by a narrow margin in the House of Delegates just last week.
The bill would allow gay couples to marry in civil ceremonies, but has met opposition from lawmakers and clergy who say it does not adequately protect religious liberties.
Two amendments that would have restored the bill's original effective date and legalized civil unions were rejected by the committee.
Last year, the Senate passed a similar measure by 25 to 21. Advocates say they are confident they have held onto the 25 affirmative votes.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said he expects a final vote later this week.
“We’re grateful to the members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee – particularly chairman Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery) - who today approved Civil Marriage Protection Act,” said Ezekiel Jackson, organizer for labor union 1199 SEIU. “Members who support the bill understand that this is about making all Maryland families stronger – that it’s about protecting them equally under the law while preserving cherished religious freedoms.”