The Maryland House of Delegates voted Thursday evening to yet again delay a proposal to legalize gay marriage.
After adding a single amendment to the bill, lawmakers decided to wait until Friday to further debate the measure. The bill was first introduced and “laid over” Wednesday.
The amendment, which extends the effective date of the bill from October to January 2013, was offered by Delegate Wade Kach, R-Baltimore, who said earlier in the day that his support of the bill was contingent on the body's acceptance of his proposal.
Kach believes that change would provide more time to bring a referendum on the bill.
“I want the referendum,” he said. “I want the people to have the opportunity to petition the bill to referendum because I think it's such an important decision for all Marylanders to make, not just the 188 legislators.”
Delegate Kathleen Dumais, D-Montgomery, accepted Kach's amendment on behalf of the committees that considered bill, even though they had previously rejected the plan.
“Some of it is, in an issue like this, making sure that everyone has a comfort level certainly makes sense,” said Dumais, vice chairwoman of the judiciary committee.
Advocates for same-sex marriage have been working this week to collect the last couple votes need to reach the 71 required to pass the bill. Several lawmakers, including Kach, announced their support this week.
“I understand that they are still working some people, but we're still really positive,” Dumais said. “Truly these are some really complicated issues.”
Those votes appeared to still be in the balance Thursday as lawmakers offered their support to the bill while another remained hospitalized and expected to miss the Friday session.
Delegate John Olszewski, a Baltimore County Democrat considered to be a swing vote on gay marriage, said Thursday that while he favors legislation to create civil unions for gay couples, he would support the bill.
“While members of my church - and I am sure many communities - disagree over this issue, I simply cannot vote to deny other individuals access to the same legal rights and responsibilities that are given to me and my wife by the State,” Olszewski said in a statement released Thursday.
Delegate Veronica Turner, D-Prince George's, who supported the bill in committee earlier this week, said she may even miss a final vote if it is taken Friday.
Turner, who is in the hospital and scheduled to have emergency surgery that day, will not be on the House floor.
She would not elaborate on her health Thursday afternoon, but said that her condition was “serious.”
Minority leader Anthony O'Donnell, R-Calvert, maintains that gay marriage advocates do not have enough votes to pass the bill and suggests that is why the measure has been delayed for the second time this week.
“The votes apparently aren't there,” he said. “The other side is trying to gain the votes, so they needed another day's delay so they could continue to meet and work on people.”
The House is scheduled to debate the bill and consider amendments Friday. It is unclear when a final vote will take place, although it could come as soon as that afternoon.