Maryland's same-sex marriage bill, which many believed would have an easier time passing the House of Delegates than the State Senate, was sent back to committee Friday.
Several amendments were defeated on the House floor Friday, including one expanding religious exemptions and another to once again try to change the bill from marriage legislation to civil union legislation.
Supporters of same-sex marriage argued that it is a matter of civil rights.
"Deborah and I were married five years ago on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay with more than 100 of our closest friends and family," said Delegate Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery County. "We pledged our vow of eternal love and commitment to each other before God. That's what marriage is."
Opponents argued that the religious community and many voters oppose extending marriage to include gay couples.
"This bill has social implications," said Delegate Jay Walker, D-Prince George's County. "People may decide to pull their children out of public school so they don't have to learn sex education."
The Civil Marriage Protection Act never went to a vote on the House floor. Supporters weren't sure they had enough votes to pass it.
After more than two hours of emotional debate, Delegate Joseph Vallario, D-Calvert and Prince George's, moved to refer the bill back to the House Judiciary Committee. It passed by voice vote.
Derek McCoy, president of the Maryland Family Council, called it a victory for those who favor traditional marriage between one man and one woman.
The Civil Marriage Protection Act never went to a vote on the House floor. Supporters weren't sure they had the 71 votes needed to pass it.
The Civil Marriage Protection Act could be brought back this session, but more than likely same-sex couples will have to wait to try again next year. Supporters Delegate Anne Kaiser, D-Montgomery County, and Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of Equality Maryland, said they don't expect another vote on the bill this year, the Associated Press reported. House Speaker Michael Busch said the issue will not be taken up again this year.
Before the debate, Equality Maryland rallied supporters of same-sex marriage. On the next corner, groups fighting to maintain traditional marriage held their own rallies.
Afterward, Equality Maryland and same-sex marriage supporters vowed to continue the fight.
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee passed the bill 12-10 after several amendments were defeated. Sending the bill back to the committee allows the legislation to continue next year.
The act would give same-sex couples in Maryland the same marriage rights as heterosexuals.
Gov. Martin O'Malley said earlier Friday that he hoped to sign the bill into law. Opponents had said they would try to get the bill to go to referendum next Election Day.
"It is my firm belief that equality under the law means equality for everyone, and our laws should reflect that fundamental principle," O'Malley said after the bill was sent down. "Together, we’ve worked hard to protect and expand these rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered citizens in our state. It was my hope to sign a marriage equality act consistent with these progressive reforms, while protecting religious freedom in our state."
Maryland would be the sixth state to legalize gay marriage.
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